LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas - Tornadoes spawned by a line of fierce thunderstorms rolling across the nation's mid-section killed at least 18 people late Sunday, including 16 in Arkansas. At least 10 people were killed in one central Arkansas community alone by a twister that ripped homes from foundations and flipped cars.
As of early Monday morning, 30 tornadoes had been reported in seven states, according to the Storm Prediction Center (SPC) in Norman, Okla.
The deadliest tornado was a half-mile wide deadly twister that slammed into the small Arkansas towns of Vilonia and Mayflower, carving a 30-mile trail of death an destruction.
"It's just devastating," Sheriff Andy Shock of Faulkner County, Ark., tells KTHV-TV after surveying damage in Vilonia, which has a population of 3,800.
He said he expects the death toll to rise as rescue teams search the debris.
Among the ruins in Vilonia was a new $14 million intermediate school that was set to open this fall in the town north of Little Rock.
"There's just really nothing there anymore. We're probably going to have to start all over again," said Vilonia school superintendent Frank Mitchell said.
Major damage was also reported in nearby Mayflower, where homes and buildings were leveled.
"It turned pitch black," said Mark Ausbrooks, who was at his parents' house in Mayflower when the storm arrived. "I ran and got pillows to put over our heads and ... all hell broke loose."
Speaking to The Associated Press, he added: "My parents' home, it's gone completely
The Arkansas National Guard has activated 46 members and dispatched them to the two hard-hit towns.
Brandon Morris with the state Department of Emergency Management said one person is confirmed dead in White County, Ark., the television station reported. At least five people were killed in Pulaski county, including three on one street.
Interstate-40, littered with overturned vehicles 22 miles northwest of Little Rock, was shut down in both directions.
"About 30 vehicles — large trucks, sedans, pickup trucks — were going through there when the funnel cloud passed over," Bill Sadler, a spokesman for the Arkansas State Police, told the Associated Press.
One person was also killed in Oklahoma and one in Iowa.
One twister hit the small northeastern Oklahoma town of Quapaw, killing one person, according to Ottawa County sheriff dispatcher Kelli Soechs.
After hitting Quapaw, the tornado moved north to Kansas and hit Baxter Springs about 5 miles away. Cherokee County, Kan., sheriff's dispatcher Josh Harvey said the tornado injured several people.
Emergency officials in Iowa said at least one person was killed by a twister in Keokuk County.