News / USA

US Storm System Kills 19, Tornado Hits Mississippi

  • Raella Faulkner, at left, and Bobby McElroy survey what's left of their home, April 28, 2014, after a tornado struck the town of Vilonia, Arkansas late Sunday.
  • Elquin Gonzalez, owner of the Texaco gas station on North Gloster Street in Tupelo, Mississippi, begins cleaning up his business after a tornado touched down, April 28, 2014.
  • Jimmy Sullinger, sits and watches lightning as a storm approaches the gas station where he works, April 28, 2014, in Berry, Alabama.
  • Deanna Locke, 17, and her siblings including, from left, Charlotte, Drew, and Trinity examine a downed tree across the street from their home in Tupelo, Mississippi, after a suspected tornado moved through town, April 28, 2014.
  • Connie Krehel looks through debris after her home was hit by a tornado, April 28, 2014, in Vilonia, Arkansas.
  • Tornado damage is surveyed in Quapaw, Oklahoma, April 28, 2014.
  • Sherry Lee hugs her brother-in-law Andy Lee, April 28, 2013 after a tornado destroyed her home Sunday on Cemetery Street in Vilonia, Arkansas.
  • Piles of debris is all that's left to homes located off Cemetery Street in Vilonia, Arkansas, after a tornado struck the town, April 28, 2014.
  • A tornado-damaged home awaits cleanup and repairs after a tornado hit the region, Baxter Springs, Kansas, April 28, 2014.
  • An electricity distribution tower was toppled over after a tornado system ripped through several states, near Mayflower, Arkansas, April 28, 2014.
  • A row of lightly damages houses, top, face a row of destroyed homes after a tornado struck the town killing at least 16 people, Vilonia, Arkansas, April 28, 2014.
  • A travel trailer was thrown on its side after a tornado struck, Mayflower, Arkansas, April 28, 2014.
  • Stumps of trees remain after a tornado damaged the tops of them in the town of Mayflower, Arkansas, April 27, 2014.
  • Tornadoes ripped through the south-central United States killing at least 12 people in Arkansas and Oklahoma, leaving a trail of debris, Mayflower, Arkansas, April 27, 2014.
  • A thunderstorm supercell passes over the area with the potential of becoming a tornado, Hampton, Arkansas, April 24, 2014.
Deadly U.S. Tornadoes

Related Articles

On a second day of ferocious storms that have claimed at least 19 lives in the southern United States, a tornado tore through the Mississippi town of Tupelo on Monday causing widespread destruction to homes and businesses, according to witnesses and local emergency officials.

At least one person was killed in the city of about 35,000 in the northeast of the state and the birthplace of Elvis Presley.

Most of the deaths from the violent storms occurred on Sunday when tornadoes tossed cars like toys in Arkansas and other states.
Tornadoes in U.S. April 27-28Tornadoes in U.S. April 27-28
Tornadoes in U.S. April 27-28
Tornadoes in U.S. April 27-28
Monday's twister went through the north and west of Tupelo at about 3 p.m. (1800 GMT), damaging hundreds of homes and businesses, downing power lines and toppling trees, according to the National Weather Service.

"It was real bad. We're trying to pull people out," Tupelo Police Chief Bart Aguirre, told Reuters, referring to emergency crews going house to house, searching damaged buildings.

"It's a very serious situation," said Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton. "I am just encouraging everyone to stay inside and be weather aware. There is still a very real danger of another line coming through and people still need to be inside.

"Main roads in and out of Tupelo were closed and the city announced a 9 p.m.(0200 GMT) curfew. Some residential areas were closed off as emergency crews checked downed power lines and gas leaks.

Residents whose homes were destroyed took refuge in a Red Cross shelter at a downtown sports arena.

"I heard snapping and I said, 'Get down on the floor!' And then the trees started falling over," said Moe Kirk Bristow of Tupelo.

"Three trees fell on her house, one which flattened my car port and two cars and almost every big tree in her neighborhood was felled," Bristow said.

"I haven't seen a house yet that doesn't have a tree through it or on it, so it's bad," she added.

Social security worker Adrian Brim described receiving a text message from her teenage sons who were home with her husband that said, "the house is shaking" as the twister passed.

"I was just praying God would take care of them," she said.

The house survived with roof and fence damage, she said.

Another woman, Reginia DeWalt said she was awakened when the tornado went by. "It sounded like a big pressure washer - but worse," she said.

Parts of Alabama, western Georgia and Tennessee also were at risk as the storm system that produced the series of tornadoes headed east toward the Mid-Atlantic states. Rescue workers, volunteers and victims have been sifting through the rubble in the hardest-hit state of Arkansas, looking for survivors in central Faulkner County where a tornado reduced homes to splinters, snapped power lines and mangled trees.

Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe said at least 15 people had died statewide in the storm that authorities said produced the first fatalities of this year's U.S. tornado season. He previously told a news conference 16 had been killed but later said there was a mistake in calculation.

Nine of the victims on Sunday came from the same street in the town of Vilonia, with a population of about 4,100, where a new intermediate school set to open in August was heavily damaged by a tractor trailer blown into its roof. A steel farm shop anchored to concrete was erased from the landscape.

Beebe told reporters of the capricious nature of tornadoes. He said a woman died when the door of her home's reinforced safe room collapsed, while a father and three daughters survived by seeking shelter in a bathtub that was flipped over in winds that leveled the house.

The Arkansas National Guard was deployed to sift through the wreckage. Beebe declared a state of disaster for Faulkner and two other counties.

One person was killed in neighboring Oklahoma and another in Iowa, state authorities said.

A tornado in Baxter Springs, Kansas, that touched down on Sunday evening destroyed as many as 70 homes and 25 businesses and injured 34 people of whom nine were hospitalized, state and county officials said. One person was killed in Kansas, likely due to the same storm system, officials said.

'Long Road to Healing'

"Everything is just leveled to the ground," Vilonia resident Matt Rothacher said. "It cut a zig-zag right through town."

Rothacher was at home with his wife and four children when the tornado passed through. While his home survived, The Valley Church where he serves as pastor was flattened.

Two elementary school-aged boys died in their home after having a pizza dinner at a friend's home, said Rothacher, who was helping provide grief counseling to the family that had sent the two boys home after they finished their meal as the storm approached.

The home that the boys left survived the tornado. The home the boys returned to did not, Rothacher said.

"These homes, these lives, won't be put back together anytime soon," he said. "It will be a long road to healing for these families."

The White House said President Barack Obama, who has been on a trip abroad, called Beebe to receive an update on the damage and to offer his condolences.

Medical officials reported at least 100 people in Arkansas were injured.

"It's so heartbreaking. I've never seen destruction like this before," U.S. Representative Tim Griffin told reporters after touring Vilonia, which was previously hit by a tornado about three years ago. "I saw a Dr. Seuss book in the rubble. I saw a Spider-Man shirt in the rubble. It just breaks your heart."

The roar of heavy equipment filled the air in Vilonia and nearby Mayflower as crews worked to clear debris off the streets or to load rubble onto trucks for removal.

The National Weather Service said the threat of tornadoes will last for several days as a strong weather system interacts with a large area of unstable air across the central and southern United States.

North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency for four counties where tornadoes hit on Friday and warned that more rough weather was on the way.

You May Like

US, China Have Dueling Definitions of Cybersecurity

Analysts say attribution or or proving that a particular individual or government is responsible for a hack, is a daunting task More

Snowden: I'd Go to Prison to Return to US

Former NSA contractor says he has not received a formal plea-deal offer from US officials, who consider him to be a traitor More

Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today's Real Native Americans

Weary of stereotypes, photographer Matika Wilbur is determined to reshape the public's perception of her people More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs