At least 11 dead in Central US in new round of tornadoes
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A tornado that spun across the Oklahoma-Missouri border killed several people as severe storms raked the nation’s heart Saturday, taking at least 11 lives, mangling buildings and trapping people in rubble in the storm-weary region.
At least six people were killed as the tornado flattened the northeastern Oklahoma town of Picher before the funnel struck about 15 miles away near Seneca, Mo., and killed at least three, authorities said.
The death toll in Oklahoma could climb, said state Emergency Management spokeswoman Michelann Ooten. The tornado in Picher — a depressed and pollution-scarred mining town that many residents had already fled — caused major damage in a 20-block area, she said.
“I know they are going through the rubble, trying to find people missing,” she said. “There are numerous injuries.”
At least five people died in southwestern Missouri after the storms plowed through, the National Weather Service said. Three people died after the Picher tornado hit near Seneca, about 15 miles away in Newton County, said meteorologist Bill Davis.
Other tornadoes were reported near McAlester and Haywood in Pittsburg County and in rural Pushmataha County, both in southeastern Oklahoma.
Television footage showed some destroyed outbuildings and damaged homes west of McAlester and near Haywood. At a glass plant southwest of McAlester, the storm apparently picked up a trailer and slammed it down on garbage bins.
“These are rural areas that we are in,” Pittsburg County Undersheriff Richard Sexton told KFOR-TV in Oklahoma City. “These are good people coming together at this time.”
In storm-weary Arkansas, a tornado collapsed a home and a business, and there were reports of a few people trapped in buildings, said Weather Service meteorologist John Robinson.
Central Park Elementary School in the northwest Arkansas city of Bentonville had roof and window damage, and damage was also reported at Pine Creek Center School.
The storms remained active into the evening as they swept eastward, with watches and warnings abundant across a wide swath of the Plains and South.
Rescuers were trying to free a man trapped in his vehicle in western Tennessee after a tree fell on it during thunderstorms, Memphis firefighters said.
Tornadoes killed 13 people in Arkansas on Feb. 5, and another seven were killed in an outbreak May 2. In between was freezing weather, persistent rain and river flooding that damaged residences has slowed farmers in their planting.
Sustained winds of 30-36 kts here in STL, gusting to 45. Prayers to all in the path of these tornadoes last night…
Additional story from Reuters below..
OKLAHOMA CITY (Reuters) – At least 19 people were killed in Missouri and Oklahoma when tornadoes and violent storms ripped through the central and southeastern United States, devastating neighborhoods and injuring hundreds, officials said on Sunday.
The National Weather Service reported six deaths in Oklahoma and 13 in Missouri but those tolls may rise.
“The numbers picked up after first light,” said Susie Stonner of Missouri Emergency Management. “We are still doing search and rescue. There are reports of missing people.”
The severe weather, which started along the border between Kansas and Oklahoma on Saturday, moved into Georgia on Sunday.
In Missouri’s Newton County on the border with Oklahoma, 10 people were killed. Hardest hit was Racine, a tiny community about 170 miles south of Kansas City.
Initial reports from storm survey crews on Sunday showed a path of destruction a mile wide in some places, said Jason Schaumann, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Missouri.
“This looks like a very large tornado,” he said. “We’ve got indications of cars that were thrown a quarter to a half mile, and frame homes that were swept off their foundations.”
Damage on the ground indicated an EF3 tornado, which would have estimated wind speeds of 136 to 165 mph (219 to 266 kph), the meteorologist said.
Media reports put the number of injured people at 150 in Oklahoma and nearly 100 in Missouri, although those numbers are expected to rise. Hail the size of softballs and wind gusts of 80 mph (129 kph) were also reported in Missouri.
At least six people were killed in the small northeastern Oklahoma town of Picher, officials said.
Local television footage from Picher, where a 24-block area was destroyed, showed widespread devastation. Homes were leveled, trees uprooted and sheet metal twisted like paper.
Picher is at the center of a massive federal clean-up of pollution from lead and zinc mining. Residents were being assisted with relocation from the community after high levels of lead were found in groundwater.
Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry ordered National Guard troops to arrive in Picher by Sunday morning to help rescue and recovery operations.
In all, the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma, recorded 40 tornado reports in Missouri, Oklahoma, and Arkansas, although some were multiple reports about the same twister or twisters.
(Reporting by Ben Fenwick in Oklahoma City and Anna Driver in Houston; Editing by John O’Callaghan)
It will be a sad Mother’s Day for some, and for those we offer prayers, too..