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Killer Tornadoes Rip Through Arkansas, Oklahoma

Tornadoes tore through parts of Arkansas and Oklahoma overnight, killing at least 17 people and leveling neighborhoods.

The largest of the twisters estimated to be an EF3, with wind gusts up to 160 mph, or greater on the Enhanced Fujita Scale touched down Sunday evening about 10 miles west of Little Rock, Ark. The tornado "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 says. It grew to be a half-mile wide and remained on the ground for much of that route, authorities said.

At least 16 people were killed in Arkansas, authorities say.

Another tornado touched down in Quapaw, Okla., killing one person before it crossed into Kansas, where it destroyed 60 to 70 homes and injured about 25 people in the city of Baxter Springs, according to Kansas authorities quoted by the AP. Video shot by storm chasers of a tornado farther north, in Hume, Mo.

Homes and businesses were destroyed and power knocked out in the storm-affected areas.

Michael Hibblen, a reporter with member station KUAR in Little Rock, says emergency crews were digging through the rubble of damaged homes in the area looking for survivors. The Arkansas National Guard has been called out to assist and shelters have been opened for displaced residents, he said.

In the town of Vilonia, Phil Ellis took covered as it passed. He told television station KARK he then came outside to find widespread devastation. Vilonia was also devastated three years ago by a tornado.

"Leveled homes, people looking for their family, looking for pets, you know. Cars... people that needed to get to the hospital couldn't get to the hospital because their cars are under their houses. It was just a mess."

The AP reports:

"Among the ruins was a new $14 million intermediate school that was set to open this fall."'There's just really nothing there anymore. We're probably going to have to start all over again,' Vilonia Schools Superintendent Frank Mitchell said after surveying what was left of the building."Forecasters are already predicting another round of severe weather, with more tornadoes threatened on Monday, with parts of Miss., Alabama and Tennessee, the most vulnerable.

President Obama, speaking during an official visit to the Philippines, offered his condolences to the devastated communities.

"Your country will be there to help you recover and rebuild, as long as it takes," he said.  — NPR.ORG

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