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Tornadoes tore across Arkansas, Tennessee and Mississippi on Tuesday, killing at least three people and injuring several others in a rare midwinter outbreak of violent weather.

A couple and a child were killed after a tornado touched down near the center of Atkins, a community of 3,000 along the Arkansas River in the central part of the state, the Pope County Sheriff's Office said.

On primary election day, at least one voting site in Atkins continued functioning as a Red Cross shelter after polls closed, said Natasha Naragon, a spokeswoman with the Secretary of State's Office.

"It's been a wild night," said state emergency management spokesman Tommy Jackson. "A heck of a way to have elections in Arkansas."

Cell phone pictures sent to television stations showed a dark, broad funnel approaching the town. Traffic was snarled on nearby Interstate 40, with reports of semitrailer trucks on their sides.

At least six tornadoes touched down between Oxford, Miss., and Jackson, Tenn., said Richard Okulski of the National Weather Service in Memphis.

In Oxford, 11 people ranging in age from infants to senior citizens were taken to Baptist Memorial Hospital with injuries caused by a tornado, said Peyton Warrington, the hospital's assistant administrator. They were stable, he said.

One storm tore a large part of the north wall off Hickory Ridge Mall in Memphis. Steve Cole of the Memphis Police Department said a few people north of the mall took shelter under a bridge and were washed away, but were pulled out of the Wolf River with only scrapes.

Later, the same system damaged a dormitory at Union University in Jackson, where a 2003 tornado killed 11 people and one in 1999 killed nine. Eight students were trapped Tuesday but weren't seriously injured, school spokesman Tim Ellsworth said.

Twisters in northern Mississippi tore through buildings and ripped down power lines. The National Weather Service said it had received reports of injuries in the area, but the extent of those injuries was not immediately available.

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