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Deadly monster tornadoes ravage three states

A system of violent thunderstorms roared across the nation's midsection on Tuesday, killing nine people in three states, with tornadoes touching down in Oklahoma and high winds pounding Kansas and Texas.
/ Source: NBC, and news services

A system of violent thunderstorms roared across the nation's midsection Tuesday and Wednesday, killing at least eight people in three states as giant tornadoes caused extensive damage yet again.

The high-powered storms arrived as forecast, just two days after a massive tornado tore through the southwest Missouri town of Joplin and killed 122 people.

KHBS/KHOG-TV, citing the National Weather Service, reported that a tornado said by spotters to be up to a mile wide had destroyed the town of Denning, Arkansas, at about 12:15 a.m. (1:25 a.m. ET) Wednesday. Denning, in Franklin County, 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 reported ruptured. He said at least four homes had been completely destroyed in the Edna area.

He said people had called dispatchers reporting family members were unaccounted for, but he was unable to give numbers of injured or dead.

Emergency officials said early Wednesday that at least two people were killed in Arkansas, bringing to nine the total number of people killed in storms in three states Tuesday night and early Wednesday.

Tommy Jackson, of Arkansas department of emergency management, told NBC News that one fatality had been confirmed in Denning, but reports of damage were slow partly because of the lack of light.

Another person died after storms hit neighboring Johnson County. There weren't any immediate details about how either person died.

In Oklahoma, powerful tornadoes obliterated houses, splintered trees and tossed cars off highways. At least five people were killed, including a woman in a mobile home park in Chickasha, and numerous others injured.

Television footage in the aftermath of the storms showed remnants of homes and buildings strewn across roads and fields. One car wound up wrapped around a tree.

Rescue crews were frantically searching for a 3-year-old child reported missing in the rubble of a home in Piedmont, a suburban area 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.

In Kansas, police said two people died when high winds threw a tree into their van around 6 p.m. near the small town of St. John, about 100 miles west of Wichita. The highway was shut down because of storm damage.

Northeastern Tarrant and Dallas counties in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area were also under a tornado warning, and numerous North Texas counties were under a tornado watch, the National Weather Service reported.

The city of Dallas activated sirens due to the tornado warning and s potters confirmed a tornado near Bedford, Texas.

Funnel clouds and at least one tornado around North Texas were spotted, but there were no immediate reports of damage or injuries.

Dallas Love Field spokesman Jose Torres said everyone in and around the airport terminal was moved to a basement beneath the terminal as storms moved through. He said no one reported actually seeing a tornado at the airport.

All American Airlines and Eagle operations at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport were suspended for the remainder of night due to storm activity. Delays are expected Wednesday.

Several tornadoes struck Oklahoma City and its suburbs during rush hour.

Children in critical conditionCherokee Ballard, a spokeswoman for the state medical examiner, said earlier Tuesday four people died west of Oklahoma City in Canadian County, where a weather-monitoring site in El Reno recorded 151 mph winds. She did not have any immediate details about the deaths.

Authorities also said there were at least 60 wounded, including three children who were in critical condition, authorities said.

Jerry Smith, emergency management director in Canadian County, Okla., told that the twister flipped over several vehicles with people inside.

"We have damage and we have people out doing surveys to get a handle on where the damage is," Smith said. "We are in the process of trying to make arrangements for shelters and to get people some assistance."

Two storms raked the southern side of the city — in the same area hit May 3, 1999, by the strongest tornado ever recorded.

Spokeswoman Lara O'Leary of the region's Emergency Medical Service Authority said there was a report of a gas explosion near El Reno and that emergency workers were dispatched.

The tornado caused "extensive damage" in El Reno, a town of about 15,000 people, said Rick Smith, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Norman.

"There are numerous trucks and cars overturned along Interstate 40," he said.

A semi-truck on Interstate 81 also blew over and was left a twisted wreck alongside the road. The driver of the truck was taken to the hospital and was in critical condition, KFOR reported.

A helicopter from KFOR of Oklahoma City tracked one storm as it slammed the McClain County town of Goldsby, south of Norman, and plowed across farmland beyond.

Obliterated houseAs the copter's camera zoomed in on one obliterated house, a family emerged from a storm shelter.

The foundation was the only thing recognizable, with a debris field spreading away from it. A large propane tank in the middle of the debris could be seen hissing gas. An overturned vehicle lay nearby.

Pilot Jim Gardner set the chopper down at the scene to make sure the family was OK. He reported that they suffered only minor injuries.

Tornado sirens went off in Oklahoma City and nearby towns as residents hunkered down. State offices and a number of businesses let their workers go home hours earlier since severe weather had been expected. But the mayor's office told msnbc television that the city proper seemed to have been spared.

The storms began about 3 p.m. in western Oklahoma and followed tracks greater than 40 miles into the state capital. State offices and a number of businesses let their workers go home hours earlier so they could be out of harm's way.

Interstate 40 was closed west of the city as the storm crossed the roadway near El Reno.

Another tornado touched down in the rural Oklahoma town of Canton, and search dogs were called out to find survivors.

Canton city employee Linda Hisell said police reported a twister moved through the area around Canton Lake, about 70 miles northwest of Oklahoma City. A trailer park there was "leveled," the Weather Channel reported an emergency official as saying.

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin declared a state of emergency for 14 counties due to tornadoes, severe storms and flooding that began Sunday.

The tornado outbreak follows the ., on Sunday.