LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Powerful storms raked Arkansas, spawning a tornado with winds over 158 mph that killed two people and was a factor in a fatal small plane crash, authorities said Thursday.
The tornado (search) hit late Wednesday south of El Dorado in south-central Arkansas, about 12 miles north of the Louisiana state line. Union County Emergency Management Coordinator Jackie Wiley said the tornado cut a quarter-mile wide, 20-mile-long swath of destruction starting at Junction City and moving south of El Dorado to Lawson.
"We've probably got 25-30 homes severely damaged or destroyed, numerous vehicles upside down, just everything," Wiley said. "It was one of those type things where I think most of them had no warning."
The tornado killed a man and a woman, both 83, who lived a mile apart; the mobile home of one of the victims had not been found Thursday evening. In Eureka Springs, a banking executive was killed while trying to land a twin-engine place at a private air strip near his home.
Gov. Mike Huckabee (search) planned to fly to Union County on Friday to inspect the damage.
The National Weather Service in Shreveport, La., said the tornado was preliminarily evaluated as an F3 on the Fujita scale, with winds ranging from 158 mph to 206 mph. The scale runs from F0, the weakest, to F5, the strongest.
Frances Thurlkill said a camper parked near her family's home landed in the bedroom where she and her husband sleep. She said her husband, Sherwood, got her out of bed minutes before the storm hit.
"It sounded like about 10 freight trains, but first there was a squealing sound," she told the El Dorado News-Times. "The noise was like big jets, a lot more than one."
In Missouri, a moderate-strength tornado associated with a powerful storm touched down in south-central Missouri late Wednesday, leaving a quarter-mile-wide swath of damage about 18 miles long, the weather service said. No injuries were reported.
The weather service said the tornado was an F1, with winds of 73 mph to 112 mph.