14 killed as tornadoes carve through central US

By Kristi Eaton

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, May 25 2011 12:00 a.m. MDT

Lightning rips through the sky above the First Methodist Church in Paris, Texas Tuesday, May 24, 2011 as more severe weather formed over Northeast Texas.

The Paris News, AP, Sam Craft

Enlarge photo»

PIEDMONT, Oklahoma — Violent storms rumbled through the central U.S. on Wednesday, spawning tornadoes that turned homes into splintered wreckage, killing at least 14 people over two days and hampering rescue efforts in a city slammed by a massive twister days earlier.

The new cluster of storms, which followed a system that spawned the massive twister that killed more than 120 people in Joplin, Missouri, on Sunday, moved into the Oklahoma City area Tuesday evening as worried commuters rushed home.

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 in Arkansas, and may have killed a man in Texas whose burned body was found near a downed power line.

A storm advancing from the south set off tornado sirens in and around Kansas City, Missouri, on Wednesday. At least two weak tornadoes touched down in or near the suburbs of Overland Park and Harrisonville, but there were no immediate reports of injuries or significant damage, meteorologist Julie Adolphson said.

A twister also touched down in the city of Sedalia, 75 miles (120 kilometers) east of Kansas City, damaging several stores and causing minor injuries, authorities said.

Four possible tornadoes may have touched down Wednesday in southern and central Illinois, but they caused little damage and only minor injuries, authorities said. The weather service warned that a wave of more powerful storms could hit the state later Wednesday.

The storms were centered over Missouri and Arkansas and Illinois Wednesday afternoon and moving westward into Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and northern Mississippi. Heavy rain and strong winds were forecast for most of the region, and the weather service placed parts of all those states under a tornado watch.

After roaring through Oklahoma, the deadly storm 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 debris before dissipating at about 1 a.m. Wednesday.

Winery owner Eugene Post, 83, said he watched from the porch of his home outside of Denning as the tornado advanced on the tiny community. The lights flickered, then died out, leaving him listening in the darkness to the rattle of hail and the twister's deafening din.

"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, who rents out mobile homes in Denning with her husband, said all their tenants survived.

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

The tornado killed one person each in the towns of Denning, Bethlehem, Strawberry and Etna, authorities said. John Lewis, a senior forecaster at the weather service's office 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.

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