Twisters thrash 5 states, killing 7 in Arkansas
As many as 25 tornadoes may have raked region
The Associated Press, May 3, 2008
DAMASCUS, Ark. - Violent storms rolling across the nation's midsection unleashed tornadoes, high winds, and hail in five states and killed seven people in Arkansas yesterday, including a teenager who died when a tree fell into her bedroom as she slept.
The storms late Thursday and early yesterday ripped off roofs and toppled train cars near Kansas City, Mo.; pelted parts of Oklahoma with hail; and knocked over tents at a popular open-air market in east Texas.
Severe thunderstorms were moving into Kentucky and could linger long enough to affect today's Kentucky Derby.
Greg Carbin, a meteorologist for the national Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., said as many as 25 tornadoes may have cut through stretches of Oklahoma, Arkansas, eastern Kansas, western Missouri, and Texas.
Five of those killed were in two north-central Arkansas counties, Conway and Van Buren, that also saw fatalities from a devastating tornado Feb. 5.
"This year it just seems like we're getting pounded," said Scott Bradley, Van Buren County Sheriff.
He said a man, a woman, and a preschool-age child died when the storm hit their house just south of Bee Branch.
"There wasn't anything left," Bradley said. "It was demolished."
A child who lived at the home had already left for school, escaping injury.
A father and son died in Conway County when a possible tornado hit their mobile home. A twister demolished a chicken farm in Center Springs, leaving thousands of dead birds on the ground.
Near the Oklahoma line in Siloam Springs, a 15-year-old girl died in early in the morning when apparent straight-line winds toppled a tree into her family's mobile home. She and her 10-year-old brother were sleeping in bunk beds; the boy survived with minor injuries.
The seventh death was reported in Pulaski County, south of Little Rock.
Around the Van Buren County town of Damascus, deputies, firefighters, and volunteers were going farm to farm to check on residents. Just north of town the wind knocked the roof off a new church that has yet to hold its first service.
More than a dozen injuries were reported, and about 350 homes were damaged or destroyed in several Arkansas counties.
Nearly 6,000 homes and businesses lost power in Arkansas, and about 40,000 went dark at the peak of the storms in the Kansas City area, where two small tornadoes touched down and several minor injuries were reported.
Kansas City's mayor, Mark Funkhouser, said 100 homes suffered significant damage in the city alone. Damage was also reported in the suburbs and in Lawrence, to the west. An 18-wheeler was blown over on Interstate 29 in Riverside, near five empty train cars that were toppled.
In northeast Kansas City, dozens of homes had chunks of their roofs missing, and trees were pulled by their roots and lying along the roads and in ditches. Police blocked off roads around the damaged neighborhoods yesterday.
Tornadoes appeared to touch down in at least three east Texas towns, uprooting trees, flipping cars, and yanking down power lines.
A tornado hit Canton, Texas, as visitors were beginning to show up for a popular open-air market that draws thousands each month. The winds toppled tents and snapped power lines, but the market was soon back in business.
Three people in Canton were taken to hospitals; two had been at the market and had reported chest pains. City Secretary Julie Seymore said that no major injuries were reported and that overall damage was minimal.
At least three tornadoes raked central and northern Oklahoma, including one in Osage County near Tulsa that was an estimated 100 yards wide, but no serious injuries were reported there. A home was destroyed and about a dozen others were damaged in northeastern Oklahoma, and a hotel under construction near Tulsa was destroyed.
In Midwest City, hail the size of golf balls broke the windshields of vehicles, including those at a car dealership.
A day before the Kentucky Derby, some race fans at Churchill Downs sought shelter when the storms arrived in Louisville.
The Weather Service issued a tornado warning for parts of far western Kentucky, and meteorologist John Gordon said two more waves of storms were expected last night and this afternoon.
There have been more than 700 preliminary reports of tornadoes this year, but the final number of confirmed tornadoes is expected to be lower.