Tornadoes Slam Several States; Multiple Deaths Reported

By: Ed Payne, Joe Sutton and Devon Sayers
By: Ed Payne, Joe Sutton and Devon Sayers
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MAYFLOWER, Arkansas (CNN) -- A brutal band of severe weather battered the central Plains and mid-South late Sunday, killing at least 11 people in Arkansas and Oklahoma.

Some of the worst damage was north of Little Rock, Arkansas, where reported tornadoes devastated the towns of Mayflower and Vilonia.

Emergency officials confirmed 10 fatalities in the state.

"It's chaos here," said Vilonia Mayor James Firestone. "Our downtown area seems like it's completely leveled."

The nightmare is all too familiar for the community of about 3,800 people. Another storm ransacked the town almost three years ago to the day and followed essentially the same path, the mayor said.

"There's a few buildings partially standing, but the amount of damage is tremendous," Firestone said Sunday. "There's gas lines spewing, of course, power lines down. Houses are just a pile of brick."

A subdivision has been leveled, he said.

In Mayflower, authorities shut down Interstate 40 as search and rescue teams combed the area.

Emergency crews tended to crushed and overturned semi-trucks and passenger vehicles along the roadway.

As the storm unfolded, the National Weather Service's Little Rock office tweeted a series of messages warning of tornadoes, reporting damage and telling residents to take cover.

A tornado crossing I-40 "was reported to be as much as a half-mile wide," the weather service said.

It caused extensive damage in the town of 1,600.

Video from CNN affiliate KARK showed widespread damage across the community. Emergency workers tended to the scene. Shelters have been set up at the high school and a local church.

The city's official website said schools would be closed on Monday.

CNN meteorologist Chad Myers, who is in Mayflower, estimated the winds from the storm at 130-150 mph.

Six deaths were reported in Faulkner County, where Mayflower and Vilonia are located, the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management said. The agency confirmed three additional deaths in Pulaski County and another death in White County.

Earlier, witnesses spotted a twister in the Oklahoma town of Quapaw, where one person died, according to the Ottawa County Sheriff's Office

Joe Dan Morgan, the county's emergency manager, said ambulances had deployed after reports of a funnel cloud on the ground in Quapaw, and rescuers were working in an area where a concrete wall crashed onto a car. There were other reports of damage in the community.

"Search and rescue is under way involving several agencies," county emergency dispatcher Kelly Flecks said. "Please tell the public to stay away so they can do their jobs. We can't confirm anything else at the moment."

Quapaw is in the northeastern part of the state, near the border with Kansas and Missouri.

The same line of storms appeared to hit Baxter Spring, Kansas, just a few miles to the north.

"Sixty to 70 homes and 20 to 5 businesses are reported destroyed," according to Cherokee County emergency manager Jason Allison, who said a tornado estimated to be three blocks wide rumbled through the town of 4,200.

Search and rescue efforts are underway, Allison said.

Storm chasers and witnesses posted images of twisters in several states on social media.

Mike Smith from TeamBCX shared a picture of white funnel cloud spinning against a dark sky near a field in Baxter Springs.

Another posted video clearly shows a funnel cloud in the Baxter Springs-Quapaw area.

CNN's Devon Sayers and Chad Myers reported from Mayflower. CNN's Ed Payne reported and wrote from Atlanta. CNN's Dave Alsup, Matthew Stucker, Catherine E. Shoichet and Sean Morris contributed to this report

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