Tornado activity in the United States had been at record low levels before this weekend. Mother Nature came roaring back to life Sunday however spawning a deadly outbreak of twisters with more expected Monday.
The National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center accumulated reports of 31 tornadoes Sunday although the actual number will likely be less once analyzed. Seven states including Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Mississippi reported twisters.
Hardest hit were the towns of Mayflower and Vilonia near Little Rock, Arkansas. Entire sections of the towns were reduced to their base building materials as the twisters struck late in the day Sunday.
Faulkner County Sheriff Andy Shock told NBC News, “It is utter and sheer devastation.”
The twister carved a path 80 miles long reaching up to a half mile wide at points.
Sixteen people were killed in Arkansas from the twisters. Five of the fatalities came from Pulaski County, 10 from Faulkner County and one from White County.
In Vilonia, the community’s new middle school was destroyed as were homes and businesses that became little more than piles of rubble.
In Mayflower, an RV dealership was hit destroying its buildings and tossing RVs like toys. The twister crossed Interstate 40 near the town toppling tractor-trailers and overturning cars and trucks.
Bill Sadler, a spokesman for the Arkansas State Police, said, “About 30 vehicles — large trucks, sedans, pickup trucks — were going through there when the funnel cloud passed over.”
The severe weather outbreak is also being blamed for deaths in Keokuk County, Iowa and in Quapaw, Oklahoma.
Another round of storms is expected to spawn more tornadoes on Monday. The Storm Prediction Center has placed a ‘moderate risk’ over portions of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee. Lower risks exist across a larger swath of the Tennessee and Ohio Valleys.