More Storms Forecast Across U.S. After 2 Deadly Days

Apr 27, 2011

Another wave of severe weather is expected to hit areas from the Deep South up through the Great Lakes region Wednesday, and storms could spawn tornadoes in a number of areas. That's after violent weather hit the South for a second straight day Tuesday, killing at least one person in Arkansas and damaging more than 100 homes in a rural East Texas community.

The latest round of severe weather comes a day after a series of powerful storms killed 10 people in Arkansas and one in Mississippi.

In Missouri, communities are coping Wednesday with rivers flooding their banks from relentless rain. The southern part of the state had 15 inches of rain over four days, and the National Weather Service predicted one more day of heavy rain in Poplar Bluff, a town of 17,000 where the Black River breached a levee Tuesday.

Water spilled over the saturated earthen levee in 30 locations and completely broke through in three others, pouring over farmland and swamping houses.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon deployed the Missouri National Guard to help with water rescues. More than 150 people had been plucked from porches, attics, and rooftops between Poplar Bluff and the neighboring town of Qulan, some 15 miles downstream.

'Major Destruction'

In Arkansas, the Department of Emergency Management confirmed early Wednesday that one person had died in a storm in Sharp County. Officials said the person was in a home near Arkansas Highway 230 but didn't know exactly how the person died or whether a tornado had touched down in the area.

Dozens of tornado warnings had been issued in Arkansas throughout the night. Strong winds peeled part of the roof off of a medical building next to a hospital in West Memphis, near the Tennessee border, but no one was inside.

One person was injured when a storm slammed through an area 75 miles east of Dallas near the tiny East Texas town of Edom, said Fire Chief Eddie Wood. Witnesses described seeing a tornado, and the woman who was injured was in a mobile home that was rolled by the possible twister.

"We have major destruction," said Chuck Allen, Van Zandt County emergency management spokesman. "We have multiple houses damaged or destroyed ... easily 100-plus."

A video shot by the Tyler Morning Telegraph showed emergency responders covering the injured woman to shield her from rain and hail. Her mobile home was reduced to a pile of debris in the road.

In West Tennessee, heavy rain prompted the evacuation of a military base near Memphis. Military officials moved 122 personnel from the naval support base at Millington to hotels after a stream began flooding a low-lying section of the base, WMC-TV reported.

Thunderstorms with high winds and possible tornadoes caused tree and power line damage from Bastrop, La., to Tishomingo County in northeastern Mississippi late Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning, according to the National Weather Service's office in Jackson, Miss.

In Mississippi, there were also reports of roof damage to homes, and authorities in several counties said trees fell on cars, but no injuries were reported.

There were minor injuries reported in northwestern Louisiana when a trailer at an oil drilling site turned over in high winds in Bossier Parish. In nearby Webster Parish, Sheriff's Deputy Chuck Warford said there were reports of downed trees and power lines and some damage to roofs.

A Life-Saving Early Warning?

The latest round of storms moved through as communities in much of the region struggled with flooding and damage from earlier twisters. In Arkansas, a tornado smashed Vilonia, just north of Little Rock, on Monday night, ripping the roof off the grocery store, flattening homes and tossing vehicles into the air. Four people were killed in Vilonia, and six died in flooding elsewhere in the state. In Mississippi, a 3-year-old girl was killed when a storm toppled a tree onto her home.

An early warning may have saved Lisa Watson's life. She packed up her three children and was speeding away from the Black Oak Ranch subdivision in Vilonia when she looked to her left and saw the twister approach. Two of her neighbors died in their mobile homes, and a visiting couple who took shelter in a metal shipping container where the husband stored tools died when the container was blown at least 150 feet into a creek.

Jimmy Talley said his brother, David, told his mother that he and his wife, Katherine, were leaving the mobile home they'd been staying in because they thought the container would be safe.

"He said, `I love you, Mom,' and that's the last that anybody heard from him," Jimmy Talley said.

The tornado also reduced the mobile home the couple had been staying in to a pile of boards and belongings. The other victims were Charles Mitchell, 55, and a 63-year-old man whose name has not yet been released.

Holding 'The Doorknob In One Hand And Kids In The Other'

Faulkner County Judge Preston Scroggin said the tornado tore through an area 3 miles wide and 15 miles long, and he thought more people might have died if the residents hadn't been receiving warnings about a possible outbreak of tornadoes since the weekend and the local weather office hadn't issued a warning almost 45 minutes before the twister hit Vilonia.

Sally Lanham of Vilonia said a twister went right through her front yard.

"You could see the rotation in the cloud. And we could see debris flying. But it missed the house. It took the tool shed, knocked down huge trees," she said.

Elsewhere in Arkansas, a tornado did not spare the house where Richard Bass and his family were taking shelter.

"Listened to, uh, windows shattering, doors slamming, and then heard the roof go," Bass said. "And I just held onto the doorknob for dear life — doorknob in one hand and kids in the other."

Jacob McCleland of member station KRCU reported for this story, which contains material from The Associated Press. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit