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Tornadoes in South Kill at Least 17; Little Rock Hit Hard

At least 16 people have been killed by a massive tornado that moved 80 miles across Arkansas and caused a ton of damage in Little Rock, according to the Associated Press.

The tornado was at least a half-mile wide and was one of multiple tornadoes to hit the southern area of the country on Sunday. Severe weather is threatening Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and Louisiana on Monday too.

Rescue crews were searching the rubble for survivors, according to Brandon Morris. Morris is a spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management.

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“Right now, the main focus is life safety,” Morris said. “We’re trying to make sure everyone is accounted for.”

Karla Ault is a volleyball coach at Vilonia High School volleyball. She sheltered in the gym when the warnings came.

“I’m just kind of numb. It’s just shock that you lost everything. You don’t understand everything you have until you realize that all I’ve got now is just what I have on,” Ault said.

One person was killed in Quapaw, Oklahoma when  a separate tornado struck and then moved into Kansas. It destroyed some 70 homes and injured 25 people in Baxter Springs. Another possible tornado hit Plain Dealing in Louisiana.

As of early Monday morning, the death toll reached 17.

The tornado in Arkansas destroyed cars and trucks on Interstate 40 north of Little Rock. A vehicle-to-vehicle search was conducted by state troopers. No one on the interstate was killed.

“About 30 vehicles — large trucks, sedans, pickup trucks — were going through there when the funnel cloud passed over,” said Bill Sadler, a spokesman for the Arkansas State Police.

Destroyed in the storms was a $14 million intermediate school scheduled to open in the fall. Vilonia Schools Superintendent Frank Mitchell said, “There’s just really nothing there anymore. We’re probably going to have to start all over again.”

Becky Naylor, of Mayflower, told reporters that some 22 people were in her storm cellar.

“People were pulling off the highways and were just running in,” said Naylor. “It sounded like a constant rolling, roaring sound. Trees were really bending and the light poles were actually shaking and moving. That’s before we shut the door and we’ve only shut the door to the storm cellar two times.”

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