Tornado-battered U.S. hit with more storms
Violent weather arrives as forecast, claiming at least 14 more lives
The U.S. Midwest, already reeling from deadly tornadoes and brutal weather, was hit with more violent storms on Wednesday.
Storms that swept through a chunk of the central U.S. killed at least 14 people in three states Tuesday night and early Wednesday, toppling trees, crushing cars and tearing through a rural Arkansas fire station.
At least two weak tornadoes touched down around Kansas City, Mo., but there were no reports of damage. A twister east of Kansas City caused minor injuries and damage to several stores, 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 storms were centred over Missouri. Arkansas and Illinois Wednesday afternoon and moving eastward 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.
The Oklahoma Medical Examiner's office said at least eight people died in severe storms that raked the state, including one young child. Four deaths were reported in Arkansas and two more in Kansas, bringing the total to 14.
There were 37 reports of tornadoes on Tuesday.
The high-powered storms forecast for Tuesday arrived as predicted, just days after a massive tornado tore through the southwest Missouri town of Joplin and killed 125 people. After killing two people in Kansas and five in Oklahoma, they continued their trek east into Arkansas before petering out.
Joplin City Manager Mark Rohr told reporters Wednesday evening that a third day of search and rescue efforts had not found any new survivors amid the debris.
He says they're making progress in sorting through the list of names, but declined to say how many people remain "unaccounted for." Authorities have said previously it is impossible to know exactly how many people are missing, but have cautioned that those unaccounted are not necessarily trapped or dead. In fact, they believe most are OK.
As many as 1,500 people remain unaccounted for in the Joplin area, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing local officials. The officials cautioned, however, that the total included people who hadn't yet checked in with friends and family.
Compelling videos and photos of twisters, toppled trees, and crushed cars.
At least two people died as the storms ripped through Franklin and Johnson counties in Arkansas, the state's Department of Emergency Management spokesman Tommy Jackson said. One person died after a tornado ripped through the tiny western Arkansas community of Denning shortly after midnight Wednesday. Another person died in an area called Bethlehem, in Johnson County.
- Tornadoes so far in the U.S. in May: more than 100.
- Average number of tornadoes in May during the past decade: 298.
- Record for tornadoes in May: 542, in 2003.
- Tornadoes so far in 2011: about 1,000.
- Average number of tornadoes in a single year during the past decade: 1,274.
- Highest recorded number of tornadoes in a single year: 1,817, in 2004 .
- People killed in Joplin, Mo.: 122.
- People killed in Oklahoma: 8.
- People killed in Kansas: 2.
- People killed in Arkansas: 3.
- Buildings destroyed in Joplin: about 8,000.
Emergency officials had accounted for everyone else in Bethlehem, said county emergency management director Josh Johnston. Crews were working through the night in the hopes of saying the same thing for other communities.
Just outside Denning, winery owner Eugene Post listened to the tornado from his porch. He saw the lights flicker, as the storms yanked power from the community.
"I didn't see anything," Post, 83, said early Wednesday. "I could hear it real loud though .… It sounded like a train — or two or three — going by."
A number of people were injured in both Franklin and Johnson counties, though officials weren't sure exactly how many. A rural fire station in Franklin County was left without a roof as emergency workers rushed to the injured. Downed trees and power lines tossed across roadways also slowed search-and-rescue crews' efforts.
Hours earlier, several tornadoes struck Oklahoma City and its suburbs during the Tuesday night rush hour, killing at least five people and injuring at least 60 others, including three children who were in critical condition, authorities said.
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Some residents said they had been warned about the impending weather for days and were watching television or listening to the radio so they would know when to take cover.
"We live in Oklahoma and we don't mess around," Lori Jenkins said. "We kept an eye on the weather and knew it was getting close."
She took refuge with her husband and two children in a neighbour's storm shelter in the Oklahoma City suburb of Guthrie. When they emerged, they discovered their carport had been destroyed and the back of their home was damaged.
Chris Pyle was stunned as he pulled into the suburban neighbourhood near Piedmont where he lived as a teenager. His parents' home was destroyed, but the house next door had only a few damaged shingles.
Town recorded 241 km/h winds
"That's when it started sinking in," he said. "You don't know what to think. There are lots of memories, going through the trash tonight, finding old trophies and pictures."
His parents, Fred and Snow Pyle, rode out the storm in a shelter at a nearby school.
Cherokee Ballard, a spokeswoman for the state medical examiner, said four people died west of Oklahoma City in Canadian County, where a weather-monitoring site in El Reno recorded 241 km/h winds.
At Chickasha, 40 kilometres southwest of Oklahoma City, a 26-year-old woman died when a tornado hit a mobile home park where residents had been asked to evacuate their trailers, Assistant Police Chief Elip Moore said. He said a dozen people were injured and that hundreds were displaced when the storm splintered their homes.
In Kansas, police said two people died when high winds threw a tree into their van around 6 p.m. near the small town of St. John, about 160 kilometres west of Wichita. The highway was shut down because of storm damage.
The path of the storms included Joplin, which is cleaning up from a Sunday storm that was the eighth-deadliest twister among U.S. records dating to 1840. Late-night tornado sirens had Joplin's residents ducking for cover again before the storm brushed past without serious problems.
The storms also blew through North Texas, but the damage seemed to be confined to roofs, trees, lawn furniture and play equipment.
"The hail was probably more destructive," said Steve Fano, National Weather Service meteorologist in Fort Worth.
In Joplin, structural engineers were going into the battered St. John's Regional Medical Centre to see whether the nine-storey building where five people died in the storm is salvageable.
If it's not, Mercy chief executive Lynn Britton said he's confident the company can rebuild St. John's into "one of the best hospital facilities assembled to care for the people of Joplin."
Britton told a media briefing that patient data had been saved because the hospital had recently switched to an electronic medical records system.
Dr. Sean Smith, who runs the Mercy clinic at St. John's, told CBC News earlier that the hospital had been tremendously damaged by the storm. "It literally looked like a nuclear bomb had gone off."
"The hospital is basically a total loss. The windows are gone. The emergency department got blasted very hard. Cars were piled up two, three, four high in the parking lot. It is just worse than any apocalyptic movie you could imagine."
At the media briefing, St. John's president Gary Pulsipher raised the possibility of moving to a new location if the current one can't be saved.
In the meantime, said Britton, the Mercy group of hospitals in the region will do everything it can to ensure medical professionals find employment and don't leave the area. A mobile hospital capable of withstanding 160-km/h winds will be set up adjacent to the old one. Though basically a hard-sided tent, he said, it will be air-conditioned and surgery-capable.
With files from The Associated Press