1167 377 5 LINKEDIN 21 COMMENTMORE

Fierce thunderstorms spawned deadly tornadoes across the central and southern sections of the nation Sunday, killing seven people in Arkansas and destroying homes and businesses.

A tornado touched down in Ottawa County, Okla., also caused extensive damage, the sheriff's department reported, and the large tornado that touched down west of Little Rock, Ark., left a 30-mile trail of damage.

Sheriff Andy Shock of the Faulkner County, Ark., sheriff's department said there were at least six dead in the county from the storm, KTHV reported.

Brandon Morris with the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management said one person was also confirmed dead in White County, KTHV reported.

Interstate 40 was closed in both directions near Mayflower, Ark., after the twister passed through, KTHV reported.

Another tornado touched down in central Nebraska, and The Weather Channel cited reports of tornadoes in Iowa and Kansas as well.

The Associated Press reported that Ottawa County sheriff's dispatcher Colleen Thompson said two people were reportedly killed when the twister hit the community of Quapaw near Oklahoma's borders with Kansas and Missouri around 5:30 p.m. Sunday. Thompson told USA TODAY that she did not have official confirmation of the deaths, however.

Keli Cain, spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management, said "there was extensive damage to the north side of town.''

She said state officials were in route to the community in the northeastern corner of the state to assess damage to homes and businesses. She said the department had no reports of tornado-related deaths in Oklahoma Sunday evening.

The weather is forecast to bring April to a soggy close with a couple of inches of rain this week across the Midwest and East Coast.

Hail and high winds hit Texas, Oklahoma and eastern Kansas early Sunday, according to AccuWeather.com. But the worst storms were expected later in the day, with tornado watches across Arkansas, Missouri and central Nebraska until 9 p.m., according to the National Weather Service.

Nebraska was the first state to have a reported tornado. The weather service said one touched down Sunday afternoon in a rural area in central Nebraska for a short amount of time, but no damage was immediately reported.

Even without tornadoes, forecasters warned that some areas could see hail as big as baseballs and hurricane-force winds. Golf-ball-sized hail was reported at Overland Park, Kan., and Trimble, Mo.

"The stronger storms will be capable of producing large hail up to golf ball size and wind gusts to near 65 mph," the weather service warned. "Hail to baseball size and destructive straight-line winds to 80 mph will be possible across far eastern Oklahoma and northwest Arkansas into the early evening hours."

The Missouri Highway Patrol reported a tractor-trailer was blown onto its side on Interstate 70 about 30 miles east of Kansas City about 1 p.m. No injuries were reported.

The predictions prompted Barksdale Air Force Base near Bossier City, La., to cancel its air show Sunday.

Runners took shelter as hail and high winds delayed the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon by 105 minutes to let a severe thunderstorm pass through.

The same slow-moving weather system was expected to stall, leaving several days of cool, wet weather across the eastern third of the country. Two inches of rain is possible during the week from Chicago to New York and Washington, D.C., according to Accuweather.

Sunday was the third anniversary of a 122-tornado day, which struck parts of Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia and killed 316 people.

Contributing: William M. Welch in Los Angeles; The Associated Press

1167 377 5 LINKEDIN 21 COMMENTMORE
Read or Share this story: http://usat.ly/1lkSpqA