Severe storms that included at least two tornadoes injured several people, damaged homes and businesses and downed power lines in Arkansas, Missouri and Texas overnight before moving to the Deep South.
No deaths had been reported from the storms as of Wednesday evening, officials said.
A tornado that struck Springdale, Arkansas, and the adjoining town of Johnson, about 145 miles (235 kilometers) northwest of Little Rock, about 4 a.m. injured seven people, two critically, said Washington County, Arkansas, Emergency Management Director John Luther. He had no additional information about them.
The National Weather Service said that tornado would be rated “at least EF-2,” which would mean wind speeds reached 111-135 mph (178-217 kph).
“Search and rescue teams have been deployed, as there are significant damages and injuries,” Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said.
In northwest Missouri, an EF-1 tornado with wind speeds around 90 mph (145 kph) struck St. Joseph on Tuesday night, according the weather service. That tornado damaged two homes, but no injuries were reported there. Another EF-1 tornado with wind speeds around 100 mph (160 kph) touched down briefly before dawn Wednesday in a rural subdivision 25 miles (40 kilometers) east of Dallas, damaging two roofs, the weather service reported.
Later Wednesday, storms were moving across Mississippi, and appeared to have produced multiple tornadoes, according to the National Weather Service. Meteorologist Daniel Lamb said the severe weather was moving along Interstate 55, extending from near Memphis, through Jackson and west of McComb, Mississippi.
“It’s still ongoing, so we’re not sure just how severe the damage might be. We’re at the stage of just trying to warn people in its path,” Lamb said.
The Mississippi Senate suspended its work as weather sirens blared during a tornado watch in downtown Jackson. Some employees took shelter in the Capitol basement.
Damage was extensive in Springdale, including to an elementary school gymnasium and a warehouse, KFSM-TV reported. The Springdale School District, which is the largest in Arkansas, canceled all classes Wednesday.
“We have some commercial buildings and residences and everything in between … with severe storm damage,” Luther said.
About 80,000 power outages were reported in Texas and Louisiana, about 56,000 in Louisiana, where storms have passed.
Strong winds in Louisiana overturned semitrailers, peeled the roof off a mobile home, sent a tree crashing into a home and knocked down power lines, according to weather service forecasters, who didn’t immediately confirm any tornadoes in the state.
Nearly 90,000 homes and businesses were without power from Texas to Mississippi, where downed trees blocked a street in the capital city of Jackson.
The Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma, said all of Mississippi and parts of Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Tennessee were at the greatest risk for severe weather Wednesday. More than 8 million people live in that area, which includes the cities of Memphis, Tennessee; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Jackson, Mississippi; and Montgomery, Alabama.
Ahead of the storms, schools in Memphis and dozens in Mississippi closed early or conducted classes online as a precaution against having children in crowded buildings or on buses. Officials in various Mississippi counties opened safe locations for people worried about staying in their home during the storm. And in Louisiana, officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency advised people living in temporary housing such as trailers after Hurricane Ida to be on the alert and know where to go in case they need to evacuate.
Bleed reported from Little Rock, Ark., and Miller reported from Oklahoma City. Associated Press journalists Jay Reeves in Newnan, Ga.; Rebecca Santana in New Orleans; Andrew DeMillo in Little Rock, Ark.; Adrian Sainz in Memphis, Tenn.; and Margery Beck in Omaha, Neb.; contributed to this report.
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