Tornadoes dashed buildings and homes in several states as one of the first serious tornado outbreaks of the season scoured the lower Midwest on Sunday.
Significant damage has been reported in the towns of Mayflower, Ark.; Baxter Springs, Kan.; and Quapaw, Okla., with Arkansas expected to face tornado danger into Sunday evening. Small tornadoes also have been reported in rural areas in Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri and northern Mississippi.
[Updated, 7:48 p.m. PDT, April 27: One person was killed after a tornado struck Quapaw, Okla., Ottawa County emergency dispatcher Kelli Flechs told the Los Angeles Times, adding that a previous report from the Associated Press that two people had been killed was incorrect.
“I know everybody’s been saying two, but it’s actually one,” Flechs said.
Flechs did not have information on the number of buildings damaged or destroyed.
Officials in Arkansas confirmed one death in that state as well.]
The twister that struck the area around Mayflower, near Little Rock, on Sunday evening may have been up to half a mile wide, according to the National Weather Service.
"It’s very, very, very bad," one official radioed over emergency dispatch traffic, saying that as he drove on Interstate 40 he saw a trailer park that had been "trashed." "There are semis [trucks] flattened, cars upside down ... [paramedics are on scene and] people are in stretchers."
Another official radioed that he could hear people yelling for help.
"State police have multiple houses damaged on Highway 10 west of Little Rock - checking for injuries," the National Weather Service's Twitter account said.
The weather service also tweeted that homes had been destroyed in Saltillo and that it had received a report that the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission headquarters east of Mayflower had been destroyed.
When a Los Angeles Times reporter called the Faulkner County Sheriff's Office to ask about the tornado damage, an official redirected the call to a 911 dispatcher, who hung up after taking the call, saying, "I have to help people!"
Tornado damage was also reported in Baxter Springs, just across the border from Joplin, Mo., although the Los Angeles Times could not reach officials there to confirm the extent of the damage.
[Updated, 7:48 p.m. PDT, April 27: Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback approved a state emergency disaster declaration after a tornado destroyed 60 to 70 homes and 20 to 25 businesses in Baxter Springs, according to the Kansas Division of Emergency Management.
Nine people were hospitalized and 25 others reported having injuries in Baxter Springs, the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office told KSHB-TV. One death was also reported, KSHB reported, but it was not immediately clear if the death was weather-related.
In Hammond, Kan., a grain elevator was blown onto a rail line, where it derailed eight train cars, according to the state emergency management division, adding that six homes there were damaged.
Emergency spokeswoman Jane Welch told The Times that she didn’t have any information on whether there had been injuries in the storms or what the train in Hammond was carrying.]
Having a very difficult time getting into Baxter Springs.— Mike Bettes (@mikebettes) April 28, 2014
Tornado damage was also reported about six miles to the southwest in Quapaw, where county emergency officials told the Los Angeles Times that a tornado had destroyed the fire station and heavily damaged the northern part of the town. Reports of casualties could not be confirmed.