Deadly storms pound South, Midwest for 2nd straight day
VILONIA, Ark. (AP) - Violent weather ripped through the South for a second straight night, killing at least one person in Arkansas, damaging more than 100 homes in a rural East Texas community and overturning a trailer at an oil drilling site in Louisiana.
The latest round of severe weather Tuesday night and early Wednesday came a day after a series of powerful storms killed 10 people in Arkansas and one in Mississippi.
The National Weather Service issued a high-risk warning for severe weather in a stretch extending from northeast of Memphis to just northeast of Dallas and covering a large swath of Arkansas. It last issued such a warning on April 16, when dozens of tornadoes hit North Carolina and killed 21 people.
The Arkansas Department of Emergency Management confirmed early Wednesday that one person 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.
There were also 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.
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.
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.
Associated Press writer Terry Wallace in Dallas contributed to this report.