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Violent storms kill 13 people across central United States

Winds of more than 150 mph have hit the central US – flattening homes, crushing cars, and killing 13 people in Oklahoma, Kansas and Arkansas.

An abandoned farmhouse has been reduced to rubble following a tornado in Piedmont, Oklahoma, 24 May 2011.
An abandoned farmhouse has been reduced to rubble following a tornado in Piedmont, Oklahoma, 24 May 2011.
Image: AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki

VIOLENT STORMS WITH winds of more than 150 mph slammed into a chunk of the central US overnight, killing at least 13 people in three states, flattening homes, crushing cars and ripping apart a rural Arkansas fire station.

The high-powered storms arrived Tuesday night and early Wednesday, just days after a massive tornado tore up the southwest Missouri city of Joplin and killed 122 people.

The latest storms killed at least eight people in Oklahoma and two in Kansas before trekking east into Arkansas to claim three more lives.

Department of Emergency Management spokesman Tommy Jackson said one person died in that tornado early Wednesday, and another was killed in Bethlehem, Johnson County. Franklin County’s chief deputy sheriff, Deputy Devin Bramlett, said early Wednesday that a third person died in Etna.

Rick Covert, Deputy Emergency Management Coordinator for Franklin County, Arkansas, told the AP: “It’s just total devastation.”

A rural fire station in Franklin County was left without a roof as emergency workers rushed to the wounded. Downed trees and power lines tossed across roadways also slowed search-and-rescue crews’ efforts.

Emergency officials have accounted for everyone else in Bethlehem, said county emergency management director Josh Johnston. Crews were working through the night in the hopes of saying the same thing for other communities.

Hours earlier, several tornadoes struck Oklahoma City and its suburbs during the Tuesday night rush hour, killing at least eight people and injuring at least 60 others, including three children who were in critical condition, authorities said.

Cherokee Ballard, a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Medical Examiner’s office, said five people were killed in Canadian County, two in Logan County and one in Grady County. A weather-monitoring site in El Reno recorded 151 mph winds.

Ballard said a child was among those killed, but she had no other details.

The storms destroyed homes in Piedmont, some 20 miles northwest of Oklahoma City – winds so high vehicles were thrown into the air.

At Chickasha, 25 miles southwest of Oklahoma City, a 26-year-old woman died when a tornado hit a mobile home park where residents had been asked to evacuate their trailers, Assistant Police Chief Elip Moore said. He said a dozen people were injured and that hundreds were displaced when the storm splintered their homes.

In Kansas, police said two people died when high winds threw a tree into their van around 6 pm near the small town of StJohn, about 100 miles west of Wichita. The highway was shut down because of storm damage.

The path of the storms included Joplin, which is cleaning up from a Sunday storm that was the nation’s eighth-deadliest twister among records dating to 1840. Late-night tornado sirens had Joplin’s residents ducking for cover again before the storm brushed past without serious problems.

The storms also blew through North Texas, but the damage seemed to be confined to roofs and trees and lawn furniture and play equipment.

“The hail was probably more destructive,” said Steve Fano, National Weather Service meteorologist in Fort Worth.

- AP

Read more: 116 confirmed dead in US after tornado strikes Missouri with ‘apocalyptic force’ >

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