Saturday, April 11, 2009

Deadly tornado catches Arkansas town off-guard

Dallas Morning News: Not everyone heeded the sirens that sounded at least four times as the storms drew in on Mena [Arkansas]. Anne Gibson's home in Mena, Ark., was among the more than 600 that were damaged in the storms Thursday night. Initial surveys showed the tornado had winds of at least 136 mph.

While many took cover immediately Thursday night in the basement of the county courthouse, several funnel clouds passed over the city of 5,700 in the Ouachita Mountains. Others stayed home, only to glance out their windows just in time to see the black funnel descend. "This one popped out of nowhere," said Polk County Sheriff Mike Oglesby.

The tornado killed at least three people and injured at least 30 others while winding its way through the town. Oglesby said Friday that search-and-rescue teams had combed through the city's downtown and a neighborhood just west that sustained the brunt of the storm without finding any other victims. The sheriff said he had no reports of anyone else missing.

Initial storm surveys Friday showed the storm was "at least an EF3" on a scale of tornado damage, with winds of at least 136 mph, said John Robinson, a National Weather Service forecaster….

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