At least 17 dead as tornadoes rip through central, southern US

At least 17 dead as tornadoes rip through central, southern US

Credit: ABC News

At least 17 dead as tornadoes rip through central, southern US


by ABC News

Posted on April 28, 2014 at 6:31 AM

(ABC News) -- A powerful storm system rumbled through the central and southern United States on Sunday, spawning several tornadoes that left communities devastated and at least 17 people dead.

At least 16 people have died in Arkansas – 10 in Faulkner County, five in Pulaski County and one in White County, according to the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management. Deputy PIO Brandon Morris said one trail of storm destruction stretches 30 miles.

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"Some homes have been completely destroyed, some have severe damage, we have power lines and trees down in those counties as well," Morris told ABC News.

Ottawa County Emergency Management director Joe Dan Morgan said Quapaw, which has about 900 residents, was heavily damaged by the tornado.

"Looks like about half of town got extensive damage as well as the fire department," Morgan said.

After hitting Quapaw, the tornado continued north into Kansas, striking Baxter Springs. The heavy winds leveled buildings, leaving behind twisted metal and trashed homes.

Search crews went house to house, checking on the safety of the community’s roughly 4,200 residents. No deaths have been reported in Baxter Springs.

Tornadoes also touched down in Arkansas, Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri, leaving residents awed and fearful. Some residents snapped photos and video of the brewing storm.

Some of the worst damage occurred in Mayflower, Arkansas, with a tornado turning homes to rubble. The town, located in the center of the state, covers about three square miles and has less than 2,000 residents.

"It turned pitch black," said Mark Ausbrooks, who was at his parents' home in Mayflower when the storm arrived. "I ran and got pillows to put over our heads and ... all hell broke loose."

"My parents' home, it's gone completely," he said. 

Drone footage shows the level of destruction in Mayflower. Neighborhoods are gone, replaced by debris fields.

Mobile homes and campers ended up stacked atop one another. Vehicles were flipped and strewn like Matchbox cars.

Authorities issued tornado emergencies for the nearby communities of Maumelle, Morgan, Saltillo and Vilonia.

One of Sunday's twisters touched down northwest of Joplin, Mo., where a massive tornado in May 2011 killed 161 people, injured many others and leveled a large swath of the city. Sunday's twister didn't hit Joplin.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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