Arkansas, Oklahoma and parts of the Midwest were pounded over the weekend by deadly tornado-producing storms that touched down in seven states. As many as 30 tornadoes have been reported, half of which touched down in Arkansas.
The Arkansas Department of Emergency Management reported that Faulkner County was particularly hard hit. FEMA has confirmed 16 fatalities resulting from the storms in Arkansas, the Insurance Information Institute reported.
Fifteen of the 30 tornadoes on Sunday, April 27, struck Arkansas, 5 touch down in Iowa, four in Kansas and three in Nebraska, the I.I.I. reported. Louisiana, Missouri and Oklahoma each had one tornado touch down.
The tornado in Arkansas touched down about 10 miles west of Little Rock, then carved an 80-mile path of destruction as it passed through or near several suburbs north of the state capital, including Vilonia, the Associated Press reported. It grew to be a half-mile wide and remained on the ground for much of that route.
Among the ruins in Arkansas was a new $14 million intermediate school that was set to open this fall.
In Oklahoma one person was killed in Quapaw and the city’s fire station was destroyed when a tornado struck early in the evening on April 27. The tornado destroyed at least five businesses and other structures, according to an announcement released by the office of Gov. Mary Fallin, who has declared a state of emergency for Ottawa County.
Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John Doak said he would visit the area today and that representatives from the Oklahoma Insurance Department’s anti-fraud and consumer assistance divisions have been deployed to assist tornado survivors.
In Kansas, dozens of people were injured and at least 100 homes and 12 businesses were damaged, according to various media reports.
The Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management reported that one fatality and several injuries have been attributed the storm, and that property damage occurred mainly in the rural southwest part of the state.
Downed trees and damage to farm outbuildings, grain bins, and a few residential structures were reported, the agency said. Tornadic activity in the state has not yet been confirmed but the department said the National Weather Service continues to conduct ground assessments in the state.
In addition to tornadoes the outbreak of intense thunderstorms was accompanied by quarter-to-softball sized hail, according to catastrophe modeling firm AIR Worldwide.
Damage assessments and fatality reports are continuing throughout the tornado-affected areas, authorities say.
“Until the National Weather Service completes damage surveys of the affected regions, the full impact of these tornadoes will not be known. Arkansas was most severely hit. Powerful winds unseated roofs from buildings, destroyed homes, and tossed empty big rigs nearly 100 feet into the air. In Vilonia, a town of 4,000, about 15 miles north of Little Rock, entire neighborhoods were leveled,” said Scott Stransky, manager and principal scientist at AIR Worldwide.
Stranky said the threat of severe weather “continues today through much of the Southeast and Midwestern states, with the highest risk for tornadoes through Mississippi, Kentucky, Alabama, and Tennessee.”