Violent storms kill 14 in Oklahoma, Kansas, Arkansas

By Kristi Eaton

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, May 25 2011 11:11 a.m. MDT

A truck marked with an "x", lies on its side in a field following a tornado in Piedmont, Okla., Tuesday, May 24, 2011. The "x" is usually an indication that a vehicle has been checked for survivors.

Sue Ogrocki, Associated Press

KANSAS CITY, Mo — A violent storm system rumbled through the central U.S. on Wednesday, spawning tornadoes that turned homes into splintered wreckage, killing at least 14 people and hampering rescue efforts in a city slammed by a massive twister days earlier.

The new system, which followed closely behind the one that spawned the massive twister that struck Joplin, Mo., and killed more than 120 people, moved into the Oklahoma City area Tuesday evening as worried commuters rushed home from work.

Several tornadoes touched down in Oklahoma City and its suburbs, killing at least eight people and injuring at least 70 others, authorities said. Among those killed was a 15-month-old boy, and searchers were looking for his missing 3-year-old brother.

The storms killed two people in Kansas and four others in Arkansas, to the east. The National Weather Service issued a tornado warning Wednesday for an area that includes downtown Kansas City, Mo., saying that storms such as one approaching the city from the south have a history of producing funnel clouds. The storm was expected to reach the city's downtown by 12:45 p.m.

The system was centered over Missouri and Arkansas and Illinois early Wednesday and moving into western Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi. The National Weather Service placed much of Illinois and Indiana under a tornado watch, and said isolated tornadoes were possible throughout Ohio when the storms moved into the state Wednesday night.

The system moved into western Arkansas late Tuesday night, bringing with it a tornado that touched down in several small communities over the span of an hour, flattening or damaging houses and scattering roofing material and other debris over a wide area before dissipating at about 1 a.m. Wednesday.

Winery owner Eugene Post, 83, said as he watched the tornado advance on the town from the porch of his home just outside Denning. He said the lights flickered before the area was plunged into darkness, leaving him only able to listen to the twister's deafening approach.

"I didn't see anything," Post said. "I could hear it real loud though."

Brenda Murders and her husband rode out the tornado in their mobile home in Denning after her daughter called to wake and warn them.

"We jumped up, got as far as the kitchen. There was wind and hail, it destroyed the trailer."

The trailer was still standing, though the roof and wall panels had been peeled away.

Her daughter, Teresa Day, said she and her husband rent mobile homes in Denning. She said all of their renters survived.

"I don't know how, they don't know how. But they did," (survive) Day said.

In neighboring Altus, May Banhart said everything became really quiet before the hail came.

"All I know is my old man (husband) told me to hit the floor," Banhart said Wednesday as she sat with her family under the section of her carport that still had a roof.

The tornado killed one person each in the towns of Denning, Bethlehem, Strawberry and Etna, authorities said. John Lewis, a senior forecaster at the National Weather Service in Little Rock, said new tornadoes were expected to develop later Wednesday in northeastern Arkansas, southeastern Missouri, and the western parts of Kentucky and Tennessee.

A rural fire station in Franklin County was left without a roof as emergency workers tended to the wounded. Downed trees and power lines tossed across roadways also slowed search-and-rescue crews' efforts.

Renee Preslar, a spokeswoman for the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management, said the threat of more severe weather could delay efforts to assess storm damage.

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