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South braces for more tornadoes after night of deadly storms

April 28, 2014 at 6:08 PM EDT
Midwest South Tornado screen grab
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Severe storms lined up again this afternoon across the South, and a tornado damaged some homes in Tupelo, Mississippi, but there were no initial reports of injuries. That’s after at least 16 people were killed in three states on Sunday, 14 of them in Arkansas.

MAN: Oh, wow, guys.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The sky over Mayflower, Arkansas, went from light to dark in an instant last evening. These storm chasers got too close for comfort to a half-mile-wide tornado.

MAN: My ears are popping. Yes, we’re in it right now. We’re in the tornado

JUDY WOODRUFF: From there, the twister moved down the road to nearby Vilonia, north of Little Rock.

MAN: As I was driving back, I saw nothing but black. It was huge, and I saw the rotation.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The tornado touched down off and on for almost 80 miles, leaving destruction along an already well-beaten path.

MAYOR JAMES FIRESTONE, Vilonia, Ark.: Three years and two days ago, we were hit by an EF-2 tornado that — practically the same path. In fact, this ran right along the side where the other tornado came, cut a path about six-and-a-half-miles long.

JUDY WOODRUFF: This morning, in the light of day, the scope of destruction came fully into view. Metal wrapped around tree limbs that had been hacked off in the high winds, homes left with no rooftops, cars twisted and bent, and, amid all this, rescue teams searching the wreckage for survivors.

DAVID HOGUE, Spokesman, Faulkner County: We have got people and dogs going through the rubble and trying to find whoever we can and whatever we can.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The National Guard and the Federal Emergency Management Agency were on the ground to assist, and President Obama pledged more federal help.

Governor Mike Beebe sized things up after getting a first-hand look.

GOV. MIKE BEEBE, D, Ark.: We have obviously got a lot of experience with tornadoes. Any tornado is bad, particularly if it’s a direct hit on something, but just looking at the damage, this may be one of the strongest that we have seen.

JUDY WOODRUFF: In fact, forecasters said the Arkansas tornado was likely the strongest anywhere in the country this year. Another twister tore through Quapaw, Oklahoma, and killed one person. This man said there was no warning.

SID SMITH: No sirens or anything went off there, and I felt the house shake a little bit, and I heard wind like you wouldn’t believe. So I got up off my chair, went and looked out the front window here, and about the time there, we seen the twisting action right here, all this devastation here just coming up.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The fatalities from these storms mark the first of the 2014 tornado season.