MAYFLOWER, Ark. — A powerful storm system rumbled through the central and southern United States on Sunday, spawning a massive tornado that killed at least four people in central Arkansas and another that killed a person in Oklahoma.
The Arkansas tornado touched down about 10 miles west of Little Rock around 7 p.m. and moved northeastward for at least 30 miles, the National Weather Service reported. It missed the state capital but passed through or near several of its suburbs, causing widespread damage in Mayflower and Vilonia.
Matt DeCample, a spokesman for Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe, said Sunday night that three of the deaths were in Pulaski County and the fourth was in White County.
The tornado, which grew to be a half-mile wide, turned buildings into rubble and stripped the leaves and smaller branches off of trees.
It was one of several tornadoes that touched down Sunday as a large storm system moved through parts of the Plains, Midwest and South.
Less than two hours before the Arkansas tornado struck, a twister hit the small northeastern Oklahoma community of Quapaw, killing one person and injuring six others, Ottawa County sheriff's dispatcher Kelli Soechs said. Earlier Sunday, another Ottawa County sheriff's dispatcher reported that two people were killed. Soechs declined to explain the discrepancy.
Five of the six injured in Quapaw were treated and released from Baptist Regional Health Center in Miami, Okla., said hospital spokeswoman Kristie Wallace. The sixth, who was in fair condition with a broken bone, was kept overnight, she said.
Ottawa County Emergency Management director Joe Dan Morgan said Quapaw, which has about 900 residents, was heavily damaged by the tornado.
"Looks like about half of town got extensive damage as well as the fire department," he said.
Tornadoes also touched down Sunday in Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri. Tornado warnings, which indicate the greatest threat of a strike, were also in effect for parts of southeastern Missouri and northeastern Arkansas as of 10 p.m. EDT.