The new system, which followed closely behind the one that spawned the massive twister that struck Joplin, Mo., and killed more than 120 people, moved into the Oklahoma City area Tuesday evening as worried commuters rushed home from work.
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, four in Arkansas and possibly one in Texas.
The National Weather said at least two tornadoes it described as very weak and brief touched down Wednesday near Kansas City, Mo. Meteorologist Julie Adolphson said there were no immediate reports of injuries or significant damage caused by the twisters, which reportedly touched down in suburban Overland Park, Kan., and near Harrisonville, Mo., south of Kansas City.
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 larger storm system was centered over Missouri and Arkansas and Illinois early Wednesday and moving into western Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi. The weather service placed much of Illinois and Indiana under a tornado watch, and said isolated tornadoes were possible throughout Ohio when the storms moved into the state Wednesday night.
The 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 over a wide area before dissipating at about 1 a.m. Wednesday.
Winery owner Eugene Post, 83, said as he watched the tornado advance from the porch of his home just outside Denning. He said the lights flickered before the town was plunged into darkness, leaving him only able to listen to the twister’s deafening approach.
“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 mobiles 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.
Renee Preslar, a spokeswoman for the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management, said the threat of more severe weather could delay efforts to assess storm damage.
The twisters that struck the Oklahoma City area killed five people in Canadian County, two in Logan County and one in Grady County, said Cherokee Ballard, a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Medical Examiner’s office. A weather-monitoring site in El Reno recorded 151 mph winds.