POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Feb 25, 2011
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. >> Severe storms raced across a stretch of the nation’s midsection on Thursday, pummeling trees and splintering power lines as they pushed to the southeast.
Authorities say the storms may have whirled a tornado at eastern Arkansas on Thursday evening. Winds between 60 and 70 mph toppled trees there, blocking roads and damaging homes across the state.
Heavy rain and winds from 60 to 80 mph blew through the Memphis, Tenn., area Thursday night, said National Weather Service meteorologist Corey Chaskelson. He said several possible tornadoes were spotted in northwestern Tennessee and eastern Arkansas.
In southwestern Kentucky, authorities were searching for four Amish children who were swept away in a creek swollen by heavy rains as storms moved through.
On Highway 51 near Memphis, sheets of rain fell, tree limbs blew onto the road and lightning lit up the evening sky.
Rudy Gay of the Memphis Grizzlies tweeted that he and others took shelter in a closet during the storm, which interrupted a photo shoot. There was no immediate word of serious injuries.
Meteorologists also expected thunderstorms to smack into Louisiana and Mississippi.
More than 27,000 people in Arkansas were without power, according to estimates from Entergy Arkansas, the state’s largest electric utility. Winds toppled trees and blew out power lines, blocking roads and damaging several homes across the state.
Flash floods crept up on parts of northern Arkansas’ Independence County, said Tommy Jackson, a spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management. There weren’t any reports of fatalities, he said.
Some authorities urged people to stay inside as forecasts called for hail and isolated tornadoes.
In Nashville, Tenn., where it rained most of the day, emergency officials told workers to get home by 6 p.m. and stay there. Workers placed sandbags around Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital to guard against flooding.
Meanwhile, further north, winter weather beat down on Nebraska, where authorities shut down part of an interstate and reported a rash of accidents. The National Weather Service predicted about five inches of snow to hit the area surrounding Lincoln.
Other areas of the Midwest also saw snow.