Several southern states braced for more severe weather Monday in the wake of storms, tornadoes and flooding that claimed 16 lives and left authorities in Arkansas searching for two children swept away by raging waters.

Tornadoes hit several small towns in East Texas, killing four people. Flooding and winds killed five people in Arkansas, including a fire chief who was struck by a vehicle while working during the storm.

'Our little subdivision was the only one hit.' - Alexa Haik, Clinton, Miss.

It's not over yet. More flooding and tornadoes are possible as storms roll eastward in a band stretching from Alabama into the Ohio River valley. A wind advisory was in effect over much of the South. Parts of the Florida Panhandle could be affected by severe thunderstorms or high winds and dangerous rip currents.  

The deaths included a woman in Missouri who drowned after rushing water swept away a car, a seven-year-old who died by electric shock in Mississippi, and a two-year-old girl in Tennessee who died after being struck by a soccer goal post thrown by heavy winds.

The storms also rolled through Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama on Sunday with strong winds causing isolated pockets of damage.

Alexa Haik went to bed Saturday night expecting just rain, but heard the sirens Sunday morning and turned on the television to see the tornado warning. She rounded up her pets and hid in a hallway with her family, then was stunned to emerge to trees down in her neighbourhood in Clinton, Miss., about 32 kilometres west of Jackson.

A trip up the road showed how isolated the worst of the storms were.

"I really thought when we got out of our neighbourhood, there would be damage everywhere. But our little subdivision was the only one hit," Haik said.

Middle Tennessee was hit by a strong line of storms that knocked down trees and power lines earlier Sunday.

U.S. Midwest recovering from deadly storms0:42

Rescuers in northwest Arkansas continued Sunday to look for an 18-month-old girl and a four-year-old boy who were in a vehicle swept off a bridge by floodwaters in Hindsville, the Madison County Sheriff's Office said.

Flooding closed part of Interstate 44 near Hazelgreen, Mo., and officials expected it would be at least a day before the highway reopened. Interstate 70 in western Kansas was closed because crews were waiting for snow falling at eight to 10 centimetres an hour being blown by 56 km/h winds to subside.

Near Clever in southwestern Missouri, a man tried to save his 72-year-old wife from floodwaters that swept away their vehicle Saturday, but her body was found when the water receded, the Missouri State Highway Patrol said.


Homeowners take stock of damage to their home after a tornado hit the town of Emory, Texas, on Sunday. (Brandon Wade/Reuters)

Path of destruction

In Texas, search teams were going door to door Sunday after the tornadoes the day before flattened homes, uprooted trees and flipped several pickup trucks at a Dodge dealership in Canton.

"It is heartbreaking and upsetting to say the least," Canton Mayor Lou Ann Everett told reporters at a news conference Sunday morning.

The storms cut a path of destruction 56 kilometres long and 24 kilometres wide in Van Zandt County, Everett said. The largely rural area is about 80 kilometres east of Dallas.

The National Weather Service found evidence of four tornadoes with one twister possibly on the ground for 80 kilometres.

The first reports of tornadoes came about 4:45 p.m., local time, Saturday, but emergency crews were hampered by continuing severe weather, said Judge Don Kirkpatrick, the chief executive for Van Zandt County.

"We'd be out there working and get a report of another tornado on the ground," he said.


The Rustic Barn, an event hall which suffered major tornado damage, is seen from an unmanned aerial vehicle in Canton, Texas, on Sunday. (Brandon Wade/Reuters)