String of deadly storms hits across Midwest and South
ATLANTA — Residents of Arkansas began assessing the damage Monday after a night of deadly storms left at least 17 people dead across the central and southern United States.
At least 16 of the dead were in Arkansas, the state’s Department of Emergency Management reported early Monday. At least 10 deaths were reported in Faulkner County, north of Little Rock; five in Pulaski County, which includes Little Rock; and one in White County.
Another person was killed when a tornado struck Quapaw, Okla., a town about 100 miles northeast of Tulsa.
According to reports, a tornado touched down about 7 p.m. on Sunday about 10 miles west of Little Rock and carved a deadly path through several towns, including Vilonia, Ark., as it moved northeast. Although there was some speculation on Sunday that a single tornado, reaching a size of perhaps a half-mile wide as it streaked across the state for more than an hour, was responsible for much of the carnage, the National Weather Service was reluctant to endorse that theory.
The tornado was the largest of several that swept across the central and southern United States. Damage from high winds, heavy rain and hail was reported from Texas to Nebraska and Iowa on Sunday night.
One of the hardest-hit towns was Vilonia, where a tornado about three years ago left at least 10 dead.
Among the ruins in Vilonia on Monday was a $14 million intermediate school that was set to open this fall.
“There’s just really nothing there anymore,” the Vilonia schools superintendent, Frank Mitchell, told AP. “We’re probably going to have to start all over again.”
President Barack Obama, who was visiting the Philippines, promised storm victims that the federal government would help in the recovery.
Images on local television and social media showed mangled trees and splintered houses, and a segment of Interstate 40 near Mayflower, Ark., was closed. Entergy Arkansas reported on Twitter that about 16,000 customers were without power on Monday, down from 35,000 Sunday night.
Matt DeCample, a spokesman for Gov. Mike Beebe, said in an interview late on Sunday that there were “widespread injuries.”
He said the governor was planning to visit the damaged areas on Monday.
Officials warned that the system was likely to spawn more storms on Monday.
The National Weather Service predicted “widespread severe storms, including strong tornadoes” for Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee.