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Heavy storms bring fatalities to Arkansas; tornado threat remains

A wall cloud forms near Purcell, Okla., on Thursday. More severe weather threatened Friday.
(Alonzo Adams / Associated Press)

Oklahoma, Arkansas and Missouri braced for more tornadoes and hail Friday, a day after deadly storms and floods tore through the region.

According to the National Weather Service, as many as a dozen tornadoes touched down in rural Arkansas on Thursday, and one in Illinois. At least three tornadoes were reported in Oklahoma, hard hit by storms for about two weeks, including the devastation in Moore where 24 people were killed on May 20.

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Arkansas State Police spokesman Bill Sadler told the Los Angeles Times that “there are confirmed fatalities” from flooding in the western portion of the state, but said in a telephone interview that it was too soon to know the number of dead.

At least two people, including a game warden and sheriff, are reported missing in the area around Y City, about 125 miles from Little Rock.

In a separate incident, heavy winds toppled a tree that killed the driver of a car near Tull, Ark., about 30 miles southwest of Little Rock, according to the Associated Press.

The region on Friday remained under the threat of more violent weather, according to the National Weather Service.

“The NWS Storm Prediction Center is forecasting the development of tornadoes, large hail and damaging winds from central Okla. to parts of the Ozarks Friday afternoon and evening,” the service said in a posting on its website. “A Moderate Risk area is in place across extreme northwest Ark., extreme southeast Kan., extreme southwest Mo. and central and northeast Okla. Severe storms are also possible from northwest Texas to the Great Lakes.”

Among the areas facing the greatest risk are Oklahoma City, Tulsa and Joplin, Mo., where the second-deadliest American tornado on record killed at least 158 people in 2011.

Moore, where residents are still recovering from the deadly tornado almost two weeks ago, is a suburb of Oklahoma City. An EF5 tornado, carrying winds of more than 200 mph, tore through the Moore area, creating a 17-mile swath of destruction, where damage is estimated at more than $2 billion.

Spring is often the season of greatest dangers from tornadoes through the Midwest and nearby states. This year, the spate of twisters started later than usual.

The weather service has also posted flood watches and warnings for a band of states from Oklahoma through Missouri up through Illinois.

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