A ferocious storm system caused a twister in Mississippi and threatened tens of millions of people across the U.S. Southeast on Monday, a day after it spawned tornadoes that killed 16 people and tossed cars like toys in Arkansas and other states.
A tornado went through Tupelo, Mississippi in the northern part of the state a little before 3 p.m. local time (2.00 p.m. ET), according to a National Weather Service spotter report. There was no report of injuries from Monday’s tornado.
Rescue workers, volunteers and victims have been sifting through the rubble in the hardest-hit state of Arkansas, looking for survivors in central Faulkner County where a tornado reduced homes to splinters, snapped power lines and mangled countless trees.
Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe said at least 14 people died in the state in the storm authorities said produced the first fatalities of this year’s U.S. tornado season. He previously told a news conference 16 had been killed but later said there was a mistake in calculation.
Nine of the victims came from the same street in the town of Vilonia, population of about 4,100, where a new intermediate school set to open in August was heavily damaged by a tractor trailer blown into its roof. A steel farm shop anchored to concrete was erased from the landscape.
“Everything is just leveled to the ground,” Vilonia resident Matt Rothacher said. “It cut a zig-zag right through town.”
‘Long Road To Healing’
Two elementary school-aged boys died in their home after having a pizza dinner at a friend’s home, said Rothacher, who was helping provide grief counseling to the family that sent the two boys home as the storm approached.
The home that the boys left survived the tornado. The home the boys returned to did not, Rothacher said.
“These homes, these lives, won’t be put back together anytime soon. It will be a long road to healing for these families.”
The White House said President Barack Obama, who has been on a trip abroad, called Beebe to receive an update on the damage and to offer his condolences.
Medical officials reported at least 100 people in Arkansas were injured.
“It’s so heartbreaking. I’ve never seen destruction like this before,” U.S. Representative Tim Griffin told reporters after touring Vilonia, which was previously hit by a tornado three years ago.
Tornado Warning Persists
The National Weather Service said the threat of tornadoes will last for several days as a strong weather system interacts with a large area of instability across the central and southern United States.
“This is a multi-day event and today is the second day of significant tornado risk and unfortunately, probably not the last,” said Bill Bunting, operations chief at the National Weather Service’s Storm Predictions Center in Norman, Oklahoma.