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Storms continue to batter South

Many residents find devastation after hiding from terrifying storms

TUSHKA, Ok (UPI) | April 15, 2011

"We saw windows broken out of the house (and) hailstones about 3 inches in diameter lying all over the ground"

—Justin Manion

Strong thunderstorms and tornadoes barreling through the southern Plains and lower Mississippi Valley were responsible for at least four deaths, officials said.

Two people were killed and more than two dozen injured Thursday when a tornado snaked through Tushka, Okla., AccuWeather.com reported.

The twister hit Tushka, a town of 350 in Atoka County, just as night was falling, witnesses told KOCO-TV, Oklahoma City. It was part of a major storm system reported by the National Weather Service in western and central Oklahoma, the Texas Panhandle and parts of Kansas.

Justin Manion, who lives north of the town, said he and his family rushed into the cellar when they saw the funnel cloud. He said they emerged a short time later to a scene of devastation.

"The first thing we saw was the neighbor's house, and part of the roof is gone," Manion said. "The roofs of the sheds were gone, windows broken out of the house, hailstones about 3 inches in diameter lying all over the ground."

More than two dozen reported tornadoes spun out of the system in Alabama and Mississippi, AccuWeather said, and more heavy weather was expected to blow through northern Georgia during the night.

Seven deaths were reported in Arkansas where a falling tree killed a woman and her 8-year-old son in Little Rock and a 6-year-old White County boy was killed when a tree blew over on to his house, KARK-TV and KATV-TV in Little Rock reported.

Brian Smith of the National Weather Service told The Arkansas Democrat experts began surveying the damaged areas to determine if any of the many funnel clouds reported had touched down.

"This has probably been one of the more significant events we've had in awhile," Smith said.

The mayor of Clinton, Miss., told CNN his community suffered "extensive damage" from a tornado that narrowly missed a daycare center and school with an estimated 650 children inside.

"We have a lot to be grateful for," Mayor Rosemary Aultman said. "It could have been a lot worse."

Tornado sirens blared and strong winds whistled in Little Rock, Ark., less than an hour later because of the same thunderstorm.

The system carried wind gusts of between 60 mph and 80 mph and hail up to 4 1/4-inches in diameter -- larger than a softball.

Officials reported multiple tornadoes on the ground from eastern Kansas south through Oklahoma, AccuWeather.com reported.

The system responsible for the storms was forecast to bring plowable snow to the northern Plains beginning Friday, AccuWeather.com said. It also threatened to push its violent storms and tornadoes across the Southeast.

Meteorologists said the main threats from most of the storms would be powerful wind gusts, perhaps exceeding 70 mph, and large hail that could shatter car windshields and damage homes. The risk of tornadoes also could be high as the storms move along a line running through parts of Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi and Florida.

Rain and mountain snow was forecast through Friday night in the Pacific Northwest, Northern California and the Northern Rockies and High Plains, the Weather Channel said.

Dry and windy conditions could make conditions ripe for fires in parts of Colorado and New Mexico Friday, it said.

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