Strong storms hit Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma

April 10, 2008 8:33:31 AM PDT
Powerful storms brought hail, heavy rain and possible tornadoes to Arkansas, Texas, and Oklahoma, causing flooding and power outages for thousands of customers Thursday morning and at least one death. Arkansas was bracing for more severe weather later in the day. Hail and high winds moved into Arkansas, a state already contending with three weeks of flooding and 10 tornadoes that hit last week. Most of the state was under a flash flood warning and forecasts said the new round of storms Thursday could include tornadoes later in the day. Roads were flooded and people were being told to stay home.

"It's just getting worse," sheriff's dispatcher Nola Massey said. "We're just trying to get everybody to stay home and not get out in it."

In far east-central Oklahoma, Muldrow was particularly hard hit, with state officials reporting damage to more than 200 homes and businesses from straight-line winds. The city was pounded with heavy rains, marble-sized hail and sustained winds of more than 60 mph, said Officer Jose Flores.

"We've got flooding like you wouldn't believe," Flores said. The severe weather began in the region Wednesday. An apparent tornado with winds of up to 70 mph moved through west Texas, tearing shingles from roofs, shattering glass and flipping vehicles.

At least 180,000 homes and businesses lost electricity in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and more than 11,000 customers were without power in Oklahoma Thursday morning. Flooding in Oklahoma forced about a dozen state highways to close, and some schools called off classes for the day.

In Oklahoma, where some parts of the state had more than 4 inches of rain, a woman died when her car skidded off the road during downpours Wednesday. Three people were treated for minor injuries in Texas.

Red Cross spokeswoman Anita Foster says no injuries were reported from the high winds and heavy rain in the Dallas-Fort Worth areas. Two shelters were set up for residents who may need them, she said.

One hangar at Addison Airport, in the Dallas area, lost part of its roof.

The storm pelted the city with quarter-sized hail just after midnight with winds of up to 70 mph, said Hector Guerrero, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. The service received reports of cars and a tractor trailer flipped over.

In DeSoto, just south of Dallas, about a dozen homes had roof damage and there was severe roof damage at a senior apartment complex and at a hotel with about 50 people in it at the time, said Kathy Jones, a spokeswoman for the city of DeSoto.

Stephens County Sheriff James Reeves said about 20 homes in the Breckenridge area sustained major damage, including some roofs and top stories torn away.

Six mobile homes were destroyed and two businesses were damaged, Reeves said.

In Arkansas' Saline County, residents spent a week picking up blown-off shingles and cleaning culverts after the 10 tornadoes roared through central Arkansas the night of April 3. Forecasters said Thursday's storm could be on scale with last week's tornadoes, with Saline County to get up to 2 inches of rain Thursday, with gusts of wind up to 30 mph.

"It's just overwhelming - a flood on top of a tornado," Saline County Judge Lanny Fite, the county's top administrator, said Wednesday. "People have been working night and day trying to prepare, but there's not a whole lot we can do to prepare for rain in the magnitude they're talking about."

The Federal Emergency Management Agency estimates at least 47 homes were destroyed by last week's tornadoes in Saline County. More could be affected as rainwater hits already saturated fields and lawns Thursday.