Midwest, South face threat of tornadoes, hail

TIM TALLEY Associated Press Published:

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- A powerful storm front rumbled eastward through parts of the Midwest and South on Sunday, producing at least one apparent tornado, damaging straight-line winds and large hail stones.

Central Arkansas, including the Little Rock area, was at the highest risk of severe storms later Sunday, The National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., said.

Forecasters also asked people to be alert Sunday for possible tornadoes in a wide swath of the Midwest and south, stretching from Omaha, Neb., south to Texas and east to northern Louisiana and Mississippi.

"The greatest risk for a few intense tornadoes will exist across much of Arkansas perhaps into western and central Missouri," a weather service advisory said.

The first reported tornado from the storm system touched down Sunday afternoon in a rural area in central in Nebraska. The National Weather Service said it remained on the ground for only a short time, and there were no immediate reports of damage.

Tornado watches -- which means twisters could develop but aren't an immediate threat -- were widespread across the Midwest and southern states Sunday, being issued in Kansas, Missouri, Mississippi, Nebraska, Iowa, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Louisiana.

Areas that don't get tornadoes could still get buffeted by hail and powerful straight-line winds. Forecasters warned of hail stones as big as baseballs and wind gusts that could reach hurricane-force -- 75 mph or higher.

Gusts of up to 60 mph were registered during a story that hit southeastern Iowa on Sunday that damaged several buildings, including a barn that injured someone when it was blown over.

Earlier Sunday afternoon, a strong line of storms moved through west-central Missouri, bringing winds that reached 70 mph hour near Chillicothe, Mo., that toppled some trees.

The Missouri Highway Patrol also reported a tractor-trailer was blown onto its side on Interstate 70 about 30 miles east of Kansas City about 1 p.m. No one was injured. The weather service received a report from Plattsburg, Mo., where an anemometer measured 58 mph before it blew away. Golf ball-sized hail was reported at Overland Park, Kan., and Trimble, Mo.

Severe thunderstorm watches covered portions of Iowa, Illinois and Missouri through Sunday night. The primary threats were damaging wind gusts and large hail.

To the southeast, northern Louisiana and Mississippi were bracing for severe storms along with the possibility of flash flooding. The predictions prompted Barksdale Air Force Base near Bossier City, La., to cancel its air show on Sunday. The National Weather Service said northern Alabama could see rain and flash flooding, while central and northern Georgia could see storms and heavy rain.

Sunday was the third anniversary of a 122-tornado day, which struck parts of Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia and killed 316 people.

Meanwhile, runners in Oklahoma City took shelter early Sunday as hail and high winds delayed the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon by 105 minutes to let a severe thunderstorm pass through.