Severe weather, tornadoes tear through South

The EF-1 tornado that touched down in Pulaski and Lonoke counties had an estimated peak winds of 105 mph, the weather service said.

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By Phil McCausland and Associated Press

Tornadoes and strong winds were reported in parts of the South on Saturday as the region faced an "enhanced risk" of severe weather, according to the National Weather Service.

Two injuries were reported after a tornado touched down in Arkansas, a tornado was confirmed just outside Dallas and strong winds tore away roofs in Mississippi.

The weather service said in a statement that two mobile homes were destroyed and that two minor injuries were reported after an EF-1 tornado started in far southeast Pulaski County and moved northeast into Lonoke County. The two minor injuries were associated with one of the destroyed mobile homes.

"Luckily, it wasn’t a highly populated area," said Thomas Jones, a meteorologist at the weather service’s Little Rock office.

The severe weather came just a week after powerful tornadoes swept through Alabama and killed 23 people.

Saturday's tornado in Arkansas traveled along a 6.4-mile path, which was around 150 yards at its widest, according to the weather service. The estimated peak winds were 105 mph.

There was also video that appeared to show a tornado in eastern Lonoke County, and another track that could be a tornado east of that, but those storms have not been confirmed as tornadoes, Jones said.

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In Texas, the National Weather Service confirmed late that an EF-0 tornado was responsible for damaging several homes and building in Mesquite, which is just east of Dallas. There were no injuries reported.

The weather that contributed to the storms had moved into Mississippi by Saturday afternoon, Jones said.

Earlier Saturday, The Pulaski County Sheriff's Office in Arkansas released video and images of storm damage, including a trailer pitched on its side. Officials said they had accounted for all the people inside the mobile home and that there were no reported injuries otherwise. It also posted photos of storm damage in Scott, Arkansas.

Saturday night there were tornado watches in place in Alabama and Tennessee, and wind advisories for parts of Kentucky and elsewhere in the Midwest, according to the weather service.

Prairie County, Arkansas, Sheriff Rick Hickman told the Associated Press that several buildings were destroyed, power lines were brought down and at least one home was damaged in the severe weather.

"It was more than straight-line winds. One of the shops, it had debris strewn over two miles, (another) one of them was just twisted in a big twist with metal on top of automobiles that were in there," Hickman said.

In northeast Mississippi, strong winds tore away roofs and pulled down bricks from some buildings in the small community of Walnut, population about 3,000. Emergency Management Director Tom Lindsey, for the region's Tippah County, said the area that was hit was very rural.

Weather service meteorologist Marlene Mickelson in Memphis, Tennessee, said there were no reports of injuries from the storm in Walnut. But authorities said it was too early to tell if the damage was caused by a tornado or by straight-line winds.

In Bossier Parish, Louisiana, a severe storm that swept through late Saturday morning caused damage to several barns and sheds and destroyed a house. In another location, the storm destroyed a barn and caused minor damage to a residence and pickup, the sheriff’s office said on Facebook. No injuries were reported.

A tornado watch means conditions are favorable for tornadoes and severe thunderstorms in and close to the watch area.

The National Weather Service's storm prediction center said in a statement Saturday evening that severe thunderstorms, including wind damage and hail and an isolated tornado threat, were possible for parts of the southeastern U.S. and the Tennessee Valley Saturday night into the overnight period.

While the South faces severe storms, other parts of the country face the prospect of bitter winter weather.

A snow storm making its way through the Central Plains on Saturday afternoon threatened the Upper Midwest, according to the National Weather Service. The region could face heavy snowfall, gusty winds and blizzard conditions with advisories warning of up to eight inches of snow for some areas.

Some areas of the Northeast could face two to six inches of snow and some light to moderate ice conditions through the weekend.

Phil Helsel contributed.