Arkansas and Oklahoma battered by severe weather

CNN
Friday, May 31, 2013 - 9:53am

People in the central United States suffered through more severe weather Thursday -- in the form of torrential rain, golf-ball-size hail and damaging winds, including a few reported tornadoes -- and braced for even more storms.

Tornado warnings were issued at one point or another Thursday afternoon for portions of Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Wisconsin and Oklahoma. Just 10 days ago, Oklahoma was in the cross hairs of a powerful tornado that left 24 dead.

Such warnings go out when witnesses or radar indicate a tornado. The National Weather Service, in fact, noted there were reports of tornadoes in at least seven communities in western Arkansas -- as far west as Polk, as far south as Garland County, and as far north as Oden.

At least nine people statewide suffered injuries -- four minor ones in Oden, three in Clark County and two hurt by a lightning strike in Benton County -- state emergency management spokesman Tommy Jackson told CNN. No details were immediately available on the conditions of any of those injured.

Two homes were destroyed in the small community of Oden, about 50 miles west of Hot Springs, according to Jackson. The weather service noted, too, that power lines were knocked down and Highway 88 was blocked at one point.

Three houses were reportedly damaged and three people were injured, around the small Clark County town of Amity, according to the same agency.

There was also reported tornadoes in north-central Oklahoma -- including in and around Perkins and Ripley, which is about 10 miles east.

Shortly after 3 p.m. (4 p.m. ET), the National Weather Service tweeted that a tornado "may be developing ... south of Perkins," which is about 50 miles northeast of Oklahoma City. Minutes later, a new message stated there had been a "brief tornado" reported that had "dissipated."

Later Thursday night, a tornado was reported in Broken Arrow, which is about 15 miles southeast of Tulsa. There are personnel on the scene, but officials have no confirmed reports of damage from the incident, Tulsa County emergency management official Kaitlyn Cross said.

The threat, and impact, of severe weather extended well beyond Arkansas and Oklahoma.

Tornado watches -- which means conditions are favorable for tornadoes to form, though one hasn't necessarily touched down -- at one time extended through an eight-state stretch extending from Texas north to Michigan. The weather service, for example, noted there was a reported tornado Thursday evening in Prophetstown, Illinois, though it's not know if it caused any damage.

With or without confirmed funnel clouds, these storms packed a wallop. The weather service's Tulsa office, for instance, noted one line of thunderstorms could also pack 70-mph wind gusts. Oklahoma weather experts also noted reports of half-dollar-size hail.

Flooding was the problem in places like Coffeyville, Kansas, where police rescued people from 16 vehicles in a 1½-hour stretch on Thursday afternoon after they got trapped due to intense flooding, fire department Capt. Wayne Joplin said.

Water in the streets went up to cars' headlights, if not higher, after "torrential rain" fell on ground already saturated by storms the previous night. "The gutters and our storm system couldn't handle it," the captain said.

"I've lived here since 1979, and I've never seen that much rain that quick," Joplin told CNN.

Even once night sets in Thursday, that doesn't mean everyone can breathe easy.

The weather service's Storm Prediction Center is forecasting a moderate chance of severe weather in parts of Oklahoma, Nebraska, Arkansas and Missouri on Friday.

The forecast is less dire Saturday, but on Sunday parts of the Northeast could be in danger.

The Storm Prediction Center says there is a 30% or higher probability for severe thunderstorms Sunday in parts of seven states, including the cities of Scranton, Pennsylvania; Springfield, Massachusetts; and of the New York cities of Syracuse, Albany and Elmira.

--CNN's Carma Hassan and Joe Sutton contributed to this report.

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