Tornado hits central U.S.

At least 11 are killed as storms strike Oklahoma and Missouri

May 11, 2008

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A tornado that spun across the Oklahoma-Missouri border killed several people as severe storms raked the nation's heartland yesterday, taking at least 11 lives, mangling buildings and trapping people in rubble in the storm-weary region.

At least six people were killed as the tornado flattened the northeastern Oklahoma town of Picher before the funnel struck about 15 miles away near Seneca, Mo., and killed at least three, authorities said.

The death toll in Oklahoma could climb, said state Emergency Management spokeswoman Michelann Ooten.

The tornado in Picher - a depressed and pollution-scarred mining town that many residents had already fled - caused major damage in a 20-block area, she said.

"I know they are going through the rubble, trying to find people missing," she said. "There are numerous injuries."

At least five people died in southwestern Missouri after the storms plowed through, the National Weather Service said.

Three people died after the Picher tornado hit near Seneca, about 15 miles away in Newton County, said meteorologist Bill Davis

Other tornadoes were reported near McAlester and Haywood in Pittsburg County and in rural Pushmataha County, both in southeastern Oklahoma.

Television footage showed some destroyed outbuildings and damaged homes west of McAlester and near Haywood.

At a glass plant southwest of McAlester, the storm apparently picked up a trailer and slammed it down on garbage bins.

"These are rural areas that we are in," Pittsburg County Undersheriff Richard Sexton told KFOR-TV in Oklahoma City. "These are good people coming together at this time."

In storm-weary Arkansas, a tornado collapsed a home and a business, and there were reports of a few people trapped in buildings, said Weather Service meteorologist John Robinson.

Central Park Elementary School in the northwest Arkansas city of Bentonville had roof and window damage, and damage was also reported at Pine Creek Center School.

The storms remained active into the evening as they swept eastward, with watches and warnings abundant across a wide stretch of the Plains and the South.

Rescuers were trying to free a man trapped in his vehicle in western Tennessee after a tree fell on it during thunderstorms, Memphis firefighters said.

Tornadoes killed 13 people in Arkansas on Feb. 5, and seven more were killed in an outbreak May 2.

In between came freezing weather, persistent rain and river flooding that has damaged residences and has slowed farmers in their planting.

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