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Powerful storms, tornadoes kill 16 in 3 states


VILONIA, Ark. (AP) -- Emergency officials searched for survivors Monday in the debris left by a powerful tornado that killed at least 14 people in Arkansas and carved an 80-mile path of destruction through suburban Little Rock.

The tornado that slammed into Vilonia, just north of the state's capital city, grew to about half a mile wide Sunday and was among a rash of tornadoes and strong storms that rumbled across the Midwest and South. The National Weather Service warned that more tornadoes, damaging winds and very large hail would strike Monday in parts of Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and Louisiana.

"We don't have a count on injuries or missing. We're trying to get a handle on the missing part," Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe said Monday. "Just looking at the damage, this may be one of the strongest we have seen."

An earlier toll of 16 was changed to 14 after it was clear that two victims were counted twice, Arkansas governor's aide Matt DeCample said, though he still expects the overall death toll to rise.

Brandon Morris, spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management, said crews were sifting through the rubble in the hope of uncovering survivors and to assess the damage.

"Right now, the main focus is life safety," Morris said. "We're trying to make sure everyone is accounted for."

Karla Ault, a Vilonia High School volleyball coach, said she sheltered in the school gymnasium as the storm approached. After it passed, her husband told her their home was reduced to the slab on which it had sat.

"I'm just kind of numb. It's just shock that you lost everything. You don't understand everything you have until you realize that all I've got now is just what I have on," Ault said.

The tornado that hit Vilonia and nearby Mayflower would likely be rated as the nation's strongest to date this year, as it has the potential to be at least an EF3 storm, which has winds greater than 136 mph, National Weather Service meteorologist Jeff Hood said.

In southeastern Iowa, a woman was killed when either a tornado or powerful straight-line winds caused a farm building to collapse. Another twister killed a person in Quapaw, Okla., before it crossed into Kansas, where it destroyed more than 100 homes and businesses, and injured 25 people in the city of Baxter Springs, according to Kansas authorities.

Sue McBride, a 71-year old retired sewing machinist in Baxter Springs, said she thought the tornado sirens could spell a false alarm. But then she saw and heard the twister approaching. She said debris flew all around as she ran into her home. She hunkered on her knees in her hallway with her head down as the tornado shattered her windows, spraying glass all over her.

"I didn't have one scratch on me and I was fine," McBride said from a Red Cross shelter in the city, where the tornado left a trail of shattered homes, twisted metal and hanging power lines.

The Arkansas twister shredded cars, trucks and 18-wheelers stuck along Interstate 40 north of Little Rock.

Among the ruins was a new $14 million intermediate school that had been set to open this fall.

"There's just really nothing there anymore. We're probably going to have to start all over again," Vilonia Schools Superintendent Frank Mitchell said after surveying what was left of the building.

Late Sunday, emergency workers and volunteers went door-to-door checking for victims and survivors.

"It turned pitch black," said Mark Ausbrooks, who was at his parents' home in Mayflower when the storm arrived. "I ran and got pillows to put over our heads and ... all hell broke loose."

"My parents' home, it's gone completely," he said.

Becky Naylor, 57, of Mayflower, said up to 22 people packed into her storm cellar as the tornado approached.

"People were pulling off the highways and were just running in," said Naylor. Men held the cellar doors tight to prevent the tornado from ripping them apart.

"It sounded like a constant rolling, roaring sound," she said. "Trees were really bending and the light poles were actually shaking and moving. That's before we shut the door and we've only shut the door to the storm cellar two times."

The other time was in 2011, during an EF2 tornado that followed nearly the same path and killed at least four people.

The Arkansas death toll stood at 14 at midday Monday - eight adults and two children in Faulkner County, three people in Pulaski County and one in White County.

President Barack Obama sent his condolences and promised the government would help with the recovery.

Sunday was the third anniversary of a 122-tornado day, which struck parts of Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia and killed 316 people.


Christina Huynh reported from Mayflower. Associated Press writers Jill Bleed and Kelly P. Kissel in Little Rock; Kristi Eaton and Tim Talley in Oklahoma City; and Roxana Hegeman in Baxter Springs, Kan., contributed to this report.

Join the discussion

1000|Char. 1000  Char.
GCooper402 April 28 2014 at 12:25 PM

were just sitting here waiting for it to get here

Flag Reply +1 rate up
1 reply
allie.ochoa GCooper402 April 28 2014 at 12:41 PM

I hope you aren't serious, or that I misread your comment. If you are indeed waiting for it to arrive I sincerely am sorry and wish you all the best. May Gods blessings take care of all of you.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
1 reply
weakmindedgod allie.ochoa April 28 2014 at 1:14 PM

wouldn't it be gawds blessings that killed these people and ruined the lives of the living that were involved?

Flag 0 rate up
Sweet Charlotte April 28 2014 at 12:41 PM

So sorry for the loss of life and homes. Those storms can happen anywhere. Hopefully we can survive them

Flag Reply +6 rate up
1 reply
calderasf Sweet Charlotte April 28 2014 at 12:44 PM

Not anywhere

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1 reply
kritteracres calderasf April 28 2014 at 1:06 PM

Yes anywhere! I live in WA. State and we had one last year. We never have them touch down.

Flag +4 rate up
ninerbuff April 28 2014 at 12:36 PM

Part of the reason why I'm glad I live in CA. Earthquakes aren't a seasonal event. Condolences to the families who were affected.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
razov April 28 2014 at 12:36 PM

When these homeowners rebuild, they should opt for a steel-reinforced, concrete "safe room" anchored to their foundation. It would add about $10,000 to the construction cost, but no one would ever need to fear being buried alive in their own home.

Flag Reply +4 rate up
bfarr466 April 28 2014 at 12:36 PM

How dense to think people affected by this devastating tornado didn't have much to start with. People's whole lives have been torn apart, people dead, where is your heart?

Flag Reply +6 rate up
Chelle April 28 2014 at 12:46 PM

Such a horrible thing to happen. I live in Alabama and went thru the worse tragedy in my life with the tornados that wouldn't stop. Had nothing to do with god.. surprised no one blames the government... Its just what happens during tornado season. Prayers to all involved

Flag Reply +7 rate up
osubest1 April 28 2014 at 12:30 PM

This is when people realize that their "I don't want the federal government in my life" attitude
was wrong.

Flag Reply +7 rate up
1 reply
Carla Beckman osubest1 April 28 2014 at 12:43 PM

The big nasty Federal government should allow Arkansas and Oklahoma take care of these people and property, just like they have denied funds from the Feds for Medicaid expansion. Foodstamps...no way. The states can handle that. Governor Fallon should cut off Oklahoma from the Federal government...what she's been blathering about for a long time.

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1 reply
Zoe Carla Beckman April 29 2014 at 10:33 AM

Arkansas has a governor that is a democrat. Gov Beebe did not deny the medicare expansion to the people of his state. btw your hate and ignorance is showing.

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tdiplaci April 28 2014 at 12:26 PM

It is amazing what the tornadoes can do. And in the pictures there are houses ground to bits and then a whole row of untouched homes across the street. Prayers to all of the people affected.

Flag Reply +5 rate up
greasemonkey April 28 2014 at 12:38 PM

In tornado alley, it`s not a question of if, but when. Would not lives be saved if all homes were required to have basements and all places of business and schools have some kind of shelter? I know it drives cost of construction up, but you can`t buy a new car without airbags in it.

Flag Reply +9 rate up
3 replies
ninerbuff April 28 2014 at 12:38 PM

And while ugly to the eye, building homes in a more dome shaped structure would greatly reduce damage.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
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