OKLAHOMA CITY – A powerful storm system rumbled through the Plains, Midwest and South on Sunday, spawning tornadoes that touched down in several states, including one that killed two people and caused heavy damage to a small northeastern Oklahoma city.
The deadly tornado struck Quapaw, which is near Oklahoma’s borders with Kansas and Missouri, at around 5:30 p.m., Ottawa County sheriff’s dispatcher Colleen Thompson said.
Ottawa County Emergency Management director Joe Dan Morgan said Quapaw was heavily damaged by the tornado.
“Looks like about half of town got extensive damage as well as the fire department,” Morgan said.
After hitting Quapaw, the twister continued northward into Kansas and struck Baxter Springs, causing damage there, said Morgan, whose staff was still assessing the extent of the damage in Quapaw.
Tornado warnings, which indicate the greatest threat of a strike, were in effect for parts of northwest Mississippi and western Missouri as of 6 p.m. Central time. In addition to the tornado that struck Oklahoma and Kansas, twisters also had reportedly touched down Sunday in Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri.
A funnel cloud touched down northwest of Joplin, Mo., where a tornado in May 2011 killed 161 people, injured many others and leveled a large swath of the city. Sunday’s twister wasn’t expected to hit Joplin, the weather service reported.
In Little Rock and elsewhere in central Arkansas, residents took shelter in their basements shortly after 7 p.m. because of the tornado threat. That area was at high risk of severe storms heading into the later hours of Sunday night, according to the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla.
Forecasters also asked people to be alert for possible tornadoes in a wide swath of the Midwest and south, stretching from Omaha, Neb., south to Texas and east to northern Louisiana and Mississippi.
“The greatest risk for a few intense tornadoes will exist across much of Arkansas perhaps into western and central Missouri,” the weather service advisory said.
Meanwhile, the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon was delayed by 105 minutes to let a severe thunderstorm pass through.