Tornadoes slam several states; multiple deaths reported

Posted at 10:20 PM, Apr 27, 2014

By Dave Alsup, Matthew Stucker and Devon Sayers

MAYFLOWER, Arkansas (CNN) — Tornadoes tore through several states Sunday evening as severe weather slammed into parts of the central United States.

Authorities confirmed at least nine fatalities: eight in Arkansas and one in Oklahoma.

Damage is “widespread” after a tornado hit Mayflower, Arkansas, and there are numerous reports of injuries, said Matt DeCample, a spokesman for the state’s governor.

Damage is also widespread in Vilonia, north of Little Rock, he said.

“I can’t even get down the main street down to the middle of town,” Vilonia Mayor James Firestone said.

“I am trying to make my way through the downed trees and power lines. What I am seeing, it is a lot of damage. I’ve been listening to the rescue folks. They’re saying people have to be extracted from vehicles. … It looks pretty bad. From what I understand, there has been a subdivision that’s been leveled.”

In Mayflower, overturned, smashed cars were visible along the freeway as search and rescue teams combed the area.

Video from CNN affiliate KARK showed a decimated building in Mayflower surrounded by scattered debris and emergency vehicles.

Interstate 40 was shut down as authorities removed debris from the highway after the tornado struck Mayflower, said Arkansas State Patrol spokesman Bill Sadler. Mayflower is roughly 25 miles northwest of Little Rock.

The National Weather Service’s Little Rock office tweeted a series of messages warning of tornadoes, reporting damage and telling residents to take cover.

A tornado crossing I-40 “was reported to be as much as a half-mile wide,” the weather service said. Officials reported overturned semi-trucks and destroyed homes, the weather service said.

Witnesses also spotted a twister in the Oklahoma town of Quapaw on Sunday, an emergency official said, as severe weather slammed into parts of the central United States.

Joe Dan Morgan, emergency manager in Ottawa County, Oklahoma, said ambulances had deployed after reports of a funnel on the ground in Quapaw, and rescuers were working in an area where a concrete wall crashed onto a car.

Numerous buildings in the town were damaged, said Keli Cain with Oklahoma Emergency Management.

Kelly Flecks, an emergency dispatcher in Ottawa County, also said a tornado hit the town.

“Search and rescue is under way involving several agencies,” she said. “Please tell the public to stay away so they can do their jobs. We can’t confirm anything else at the moment.

Quapaw is in the northeastern part of the state, near the borders with Kansas and Missouri.

Also Sunday evening, a tornado emergency was declared for Maumelle, Arkansas, the weather service said. Maumelle is also northwest of Little Rock in central Arkansas.

Storm spotters were tracking a confirmed tornado with reports of damage, the weather service said. A tornado emergency is issued when a storm is producing a life-threatening, confirmed tornado capable of significant destruction.

Strong tornadoes, damaging winds, and large hail were expected for parts of the Central Plains and along the Mississippi River Valley on Sunday, CNN meteorologists said.

Forecasters from the weather service warned that numerous tornadoes could hit, “with a few intense tornadoes likely.” Large hail and damaging winds are also possible, forecasters said.

Storm chasers and witnesses posted images of twisters in several states on social media.

Mike Smith from TeamBCX shared a picture of white funnel spinning against a dark sky near a field in Baxter Springs, Kansas, where there were several reports of damage from a tornado Sunday.

CNN’s Devon Sayers reported from Mayflower. CNN’s Dave Alsup and Matthew Stucker reported from Atlanta. CNN’s Chad Myers, Catherine E. Shoichet and Sean Morris contributed to this report.

™ & © 2014 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.