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U.S. Weather

Tornadoes Rip Across Arkansas, 4 Injured

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Tornadoes cut a path through much of Arkansas on Wednesday, destroying a handful of homes and injuring four people.

Three people suffered major injuries in a tornado that destroyed a house near Pearson in Cleburne County on Wednesday night, said Arkansas Department of Emergency Management spokeswoman Renee Preslar. Preslar said she didn't know the exact nature of the injuries.

Preslar also said one person was injured when a tornado moved through Center Hill in White County. The National Weather Service said the person suffered a leg injury and was taken to the hospital.

Nine houses in the county also were damaged, White County officials said.

Lt. Scott Courtney of the Saline County Sheriff's Office said a dozen homes were damaged near Benton, but no injuries were reported.

Lillie Orrell, whose home was damaged in the tornado, said she had already gone to bed when she heard to storm approach.

"I got up and got in the hallway," Orrell told the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. "When it struck and I could hear everything you know, the glass breaking and all that stuff falling off, blowing off.

"I'm still scared."

In southwest Arkansas, a tornado did minor damage to one building, snapped trees and downed power lines near Ozan in Hempstead County.

Trees and power lines were down along a path from near Texarkana in far southwestern Arkansas to near Batesville in the northeast, as either high winds or tornadoes ravaged the countryside.

The storms, which forecasters had been warning about since the weekend, missed most population centers.

Until this week, the nation had had one of the slowest starts to a tornado season. Until a twister Monday at Hammon, Okla., there had been only 42 reports of tornadoes since the start of the year -- including just one in February.

Forecasters said moisture from the Gulf of Mexico, a wetter-than-usual winter and a jet stream racing over Tornado Alley could contribute to a rapid uptick in violent storms.