Two dead following tornado outbreak in Texas and Arkansas
Sunday was a busy weather day from north to south in the central United States.
Van, Texas — Emergency responders searched the wreckage of communities in northeast Texas and southwest Arkansas early Monday, after a rash of tornadoes slammed the area, killing at least two people and leaving dozens injured.
Howard County Sheriff Brian McJunkins said two victims who lived in adjoining mobile homes in Nashville, Arkansas, died after several tornadoes were reported in the area late Sunday. McJunkins told KLSA-TV that two other people in the town about 50 miles north of Texarkana were critically injured.
In neighboring Texas, a likely tornado pummeled the small city of Van in Van Zandt County around 8:45 p.m. Chuck Allen, the Van Zandt County fire marshal and emergency management coordinator, said about 30 percent of the city was damaged in the storm.
Allen said in an email early Monday that a triage area was established at a church and about 26 residents were taken to hospitals. The extent of their injuries was not immediately clear.
"Damages range from completely destroyed homes, damaged homes, to trees and power lines down," Allen wrote.
Allen said authorities were going door to door in the city about 70 miles southeast of Dallas, hunting for injured people. Van has about 2,500 residents.
Utility companies are working to restore "vital infrastructures," and road and bridge crews are working to open streets and highways to allow for first responder access, he said.
The American Red Cross planned to open a shelter at First Baptist Church in Van, Allen said. Calls to the church rang unanswered early Monday.
The Van Independent School District said on its website schools would be closed Monday.
The National Weather Service believes at least one tornado hit Van on Sunday night, senior meteorologist Eric Martello said. Weather service crews were surveying the area Monday.
The storm was part of severe weather that stretched across North Texas on Sunday.
Further north, in Lake City, Iowa, a suspected tornado tore the roof from a high school as about 150 students, family and faculty attended a baccalaureate and senior awards ceremony inside Sunday night.
South Central Calhoun girls' basketball coach Dave Birks said they were able to evacuate to the school's basement and locker room area about two minutes before the twister hit.
"The lights went off, and everyone's ears kind of popped," Birks said, adding that school windows were blown out and insulation was scattered nearby. He also said the high jump pit from the school's outdoor athletic complex was missing and hurdles were scattered everywhere.
Much earlier Sunday, storms struck the small town of Delmont in South Dakota, injuring nine people there.
"Our house is flat. There is nothing left," said Stephanie Lunder, 34, who was sheltering with her husband and four children in the basement when the storm hit. State Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Kristi Turman said the town's 200-plus residents were asked to leave for safety reasons.
Also early Sunday, another likely tornado ripped roofs off buildings and damaged trees near Denton, about 40 miles northwest of Dallas, according to weather service meteorologist Tom Bradshaw. There were no immediate reports of injuries or fatalities.
The area also experienced torrential rains that led to widespread flash flooding. Authorities in Denton County said Sunday that two groups of people had to be airlifted by helicopters to safety.