Nightly News   |  April 28, 2014

‘It’s Here!’ Ferocious Storm Tears Through Arkansas

Cars were transformed into tangles piles of metal, toppling homes and power lines, as twisters left a path of destruction more than 100 miles long.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> just beginning see the full scope of damage done by dozens of tornados in the first wave of this storm from the midwest on into the south. one of them a mile wide tornado , another carving a path 1 00 miles long across the state of arkansas . lester holt is in may flower , arkansas tonight north of little rock . lester, good evening.

>> reporter: brian, good evening. look at this tattered twisted landscape behind me, pieces of homes and businesses and vehicles swept off i-40 about 200 yards from where i'm standing. in some cases pull peopled from the wreckage of these vehicles. that tornado tore through fulkner county. 14 people died in arkansas . many others saying if not for a miracle, they wouldn't be around today.

>> get in the car!

>> reporter: the first significant tornado outbreak of the season. setting off warning sirens and tearing through as many as seven states stretching from nebraska and iowa down to mississippi. in mayflower, arkansas , this is what robert saw with his own eyes as he stepped out his front door.

>> i said oh my goodness. i said it's here. get in the hole, get in the hole.

>> reporter: they took shelter in a hallway and vsurvived. cars driving along i-40 were transformed into tangled piles of meatal.

>> we're in it right now, we're in the tornado .

>> reporter: skies across the plains turned black as people tried to take cover. in arkansas alone, twisters left a path of destruction more than 100 piles long. they hit i-40 in mayflower at 7:34 p.m . and traveled northeast. by 8:20 p.m ., the storm toppled power lines leaving thousands in the dark. at 9:24, local police radioed in, the last reported tornado in arkansas in campbell station , making it a two-hour ordeal for the state. the weather tw -- experts will survey this and figure out the intent. to the layman, this leaves you in awe. a thin piece of metal embedded in this tree like a dagger. imagine that force. [crying]

>> reporter: 73-year-old ruth buser lost her home and nearly her life. never again she told me.

>> they told me a tornado is coming and it's going to kill me or whatever, i don't want to live through the tornado .

>> reporter: 100 yards away, her son and law and his wife took shelter a bathroom. what could you see and hear?

>> you couldn't see much until the roof came off, the door. i had to hold the door because it kept trying to open up.

>> reporter: they followed the warnings all day that you aincluded urgent tweets. tornado crossing i-40 right now read one. another take cover now. their home completely torn apart. the weather radio that was their lifeline left in the bathroom. it became their shelter.

>> it seemed like it lasted forever, but it probably didn't last long at all.

>> reporter: in the neighboring town, devastating three years ago by another tornado , michelle mcgee had just moved to this neighborhood.

>> this is my life that i worked so hard for, and it's just laying there in pieces.

>> reporter: so much lost, but it's what she's found that really hit home, an old jewelry box , a gift from her mother. a lot of people alive here because of a timely warning. the storm prediction center called it as late as friday, there would be a risk of strong perhaps tornados here in south and central arkansas , brian.