ST. LOUIS — As residents in three states picked through rubble, looking for victims and belongings buried by storms that killed 15 people, powerful storms roared through middle America again on Wednesday.
Weak tornadoes touched down in isolated spots and severe thunderstorms threatened strikes in several states.
The National Weather Service issued tornado watches and a series of warnings in a dozen states, stretching northwest from Texas though the Mississippi River valley to Ohio.
Heavy rain, hail and lightning pounded Memphis on Wednesday night as a tornado warning sounded. Menacing clouds showed some rotation, but there were no confirmed reports of tornadoes touching down, NBC station WMC reported.
By The Weather Channel's count, the storms had spawned an estimated 67 tornado reports by late Wednesday. No new deaths were reported, however, and the worst damage appeared to be in a Missouri town where 15 people had minor injuries.
"Everybody's working as fast and furious as possible," said Beverly Poole, the chief meteorologist at the service's office in Paducah, Ky., which covers southeastern Missouri and southern Illinois. "This is just a wild ride."
Funnel clouds were seen across the St. Louis area and four-inch hail was reported in some parts, NBC affiliate KSDK-TV said. Public schools kept students inside until the storms passed.
The system also caused Chicago's O'Hare airport to cancel more than 700 flights.
Suburbs around Kansas City, Mo., saw at least one twister, and the National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for the downtown area, where a a rotating wall cloud was seen before the weather improved.
A tornado also touched down in nearby Sedalia. Fifteen people were treated for minor injuries, and damage in the town of about 21,000 was significant.
In California on Wednesday evening, at least three tornadoes were reported in a rural area outside of Chico. No serious significant damage was reported but the California Highway Patrol said four minor accidents occurred in the area. Video shot from KCRA-TV's helicopter showed a twister forming and touching down near Durham, a tiny community about five miles south of Chico.
Earlier Wednesday, a twister was reported on the ground in Miami County, Kan., just west of Kansas City. Damage was spotted near Highway 69, KSHB-TV reported officials as saying.
Video: What’s behind tornado outbreak? (on this page)
The storms were racing east and should begin to weaken after midnight as they approach Louisville and Cincinnati, said Kevin Roth, lead meteorologist for The Weather Channel.
Wednesday's storms followed a deadly outbreak Tuesday in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Kansas that killed at least 15 people. The nation's single deadliest tornado since 1950 killed 125 on Sunday in the southwest Missouri city of Joplin.
The storms extended into North Texas, where 10,000 people spent the night at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, according to airport spokeswoman Sarah McDaniel. Golf ball-sized hail was reported at the airport, and 65 airplanes were pulled out of service because of possible hail damage, she said.
That led to the cancellation of 200 flights last night and another 100 on Wednesday, McDaniel said. In addition, 61 flights scheduled to land at the airport were diverted elsewhere. There were no injuries at the airport, she said.
The Tuesday storms arrived as forecast just two days after a massive tornado tore through Joplin, Mo., killing at least 125 people.
Above average temperatures
"Way above average temperatures" are combining with a powerful jet stream to fuel strong thunderstorms, which can turn into tornadoes, The Weather Channel's Greg Forbes explained on NBC's TODAY.
He said the weather pattern was likely to continue for the next several weeks and then would taper off into the summer and fall.
A tornado said by spotters to be up to a mile wide destroyed the town of Denning, Ark., shortly after midnight on Wednesday. Denning has about 100 homes.
Franklin County Sheriff Anthony Bowen, who was near the town of Edna, told NBC News that trees and power lines were down everywhere and gas lines were also reportedly ruptured. He said at least four homes had been completely destroyed in the Edna area.
Just outside Denning, Eugene Post listened to the tornado from his porch. He saw the lights flicker, as the storms yanked power away from his community.
"I didn't see anything," Post, 83, said early Wednesday. "I could hear it real loud though. ... It sounded like a train — or two or three — going by."Interactive: Tornado tracker (on this page)
A local fire station was left without a roof as emergency workers tried to rush to the injured. Downed trees and power lines tossed across roadways also slowed search-and-rescue crews' efforts.
Frantic search for 3-year-old
Several tornadoes struck Oklahoma City and its suburbs during the Tuesday night rush hour, killing at least nine people and injuring at least 60 others, including three children who were in critical condition.
Rescue crews were searching for a 3-year-old child reported missing in the rubble of a home in Piedmont, a suburb northwest of Oklahoma City.
The child's mother and two other children were injured and taken to the hospital after trying to ride the storm out in a bathtub, NBC station KFOR-TV reported.
Piedmont Mayor Valerie Thomerson said Wednesday that "we have anything from houses that have shingles blown off, to half the house missing, to the house being completely wiped out, gone."
Chris Pyle was stunned as he pulled into the suburban neighborhood near Piedmont where he lived as a teenager. His parents' home was destroyed, but the house next door had only a few damaged shingles.
"That's when it started sinking in," he said. "You don't know what to think. There are lots of memories, going through the trash tonight, finding old trophies and pictures."
His parents, Fred and Snow Pyle, rode out the storm in a shelter at a nearby school.
Some residents said they had been warned about the impending weather for days and were watching television or listening to the radio so they would know when to take cover.
"We live in Oklahoma and we don't mess around," Lori Jenkins said. "We kept an eye on the weather and knew it was getting close."
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She took refuge with her husband and two children in a neighbor's storm shelter in the Oklahoma City suburb of Guthrie. When they emerged, they discovered their carport had been destroyed and the back of their home was damaged.
Kenneth Hanebaum, 80, and his wife, Margie, 76, escaped injury after hiding under a mattress. The couple's home and dozens of other residences were destroyed, he said.
"We thought it was well south of us and all of the sudden it was on top of us," Kenneth Hanebaum told the Oklahoman on Wednesday.
He said they hid underneath a mattress in the hallway and waited out the storm. They emerged to a scene of devastation with mangled cars, trees stripped of branches and uprooted.
Joplin death toll at 125
In Joplin on Wednesday, the search for missing victims of the weekend's lethal twister inched forward methodically, with city leaders refusing to abandon hope that they would find more survivors even as rescuers prepared to go over ground searched as many as four times already.
Authorities have identified the body of a toddler whose disappearance in the Joplin tornado drew an outpouring of concern when it was posted on Facebook.
His mother, Carol Jo Tate, told The Associated Press Wednesday that the body of 16-month-old Skyular Logsdon was identified at the morgue handling tornado victims.
More than 10,000 people supported a "Bring Skyular Logsdon home" page set up after the boy vanished in Sunday's tornado.
Tate, 18, remains hospitalized with severe injuries at Via Christi Hospital in Pittsburg, Kan.
"We've had stories from earthquakes and tsunamis and other disasters of people being found two or three weeks later," Fire Chief Mitch Randles said. "And we are hopeful that we'll have a story like that to tell."
By evening, however, officials said no new survivors had been found and that the death toll stood at 125. More than 900 people were injured, they added.Video: Veterans help wage battle against raging storms
The National Weather Service said the Joplin twister was an EF5, the strongest rating assigned to tornadoes, with winds of more than 200 mph.
It also appeared to be a rare "multivortex" tornado, with two or more small and intense centers of rotation orbiting the larger funnel.
Bill Davis, the lead forecaster on a weather service team sent to survey the damage, said he would need to look at video to confirm that.
But, he said, the strength of the tornado was evident from the many stout buildings that were damaged: St. John's Regional Medical Center, a bank that was destroyed except for its vault, a Pepsi bottling plant and "numerous well-built residential homes that were basically leveled."
Davis recalled his first thought on arriving in town to conduct the survey: "Where do you start?"
The Associated Press, Reuters, NBC News and msnbc.com staff contributed to this report.