Kansas City area earlier saw twisters; several states on alert
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© Sydney Brink/The Sedalia Democrat/AP
Joe Horacek of Sedalia, Mo., surveys the damage shortly after a tornado sliced through his neighborhood Wednesday. Horacek said he got sprayed with glass and debris when he looked out a window and barely made it to the safety of his bathroom. His home, in background, he said, "is gone."
Kansas City, Missouri - As residents in three states picked through rubble, looking for victims and belongings buried by storms that killed 14 people, twisters hopped across the Kansas City area Wednesday while a tornado warning was issued for St. Louis, where a trained spotter reported a twister briefly touched down near a busy interstate.

Funnel clouds were seen across the St. Louis area, NBC affiliate KSDK-TV reported.

The system also caused Chicago's O'Hare airport to cancel 550 flights and delay inbound and outbound flights by three hours.

Suburbs around Kansas City, Mo., reportedly saw at least one twister, and the National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for the downtown area, where a a rotating wall cloud was seen before the weather improved.

No reports of damage were immediately available but tornado sirens were heard in some areas. People in downtown buildings moved into underground areas before the worst of the weather passed.

A tornado also touched down in nearby Sedalia, Mo., the National Weather Service said. A Sedalia resident told KSHB-TV that damage in the town of about 21,000 was significant.

Earlier Wednesday, a twister was reported on the ground in Miami County, Kan., just west of Kansas City. Damage was spotted near Highway 69, KSHB-TV reported officials as saying.


A "major tornado and severe weather outbreak" was predicted for Wednesday by the National Weather Service in parts of several states.

Tornado warnings were issued for areas of Kansas and Missouri. Tornado watches, which signal a less imminent danger, were issued for parts of Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee.

A "particularly dangerous situation" report was issued for parts of Arkansas, Missouri, Mississippi and Tennessee, including Little Rock and Memphis.

The storms will be racing east and then begin to weaken after midnight as they approach Louisville and Cincinnati, said Kevin Roth, lead meteorologist for The Weather Channel.

High-powered storms earlier injured dozens and killed at least eight people in Oklahoma, four in Arkansas and two in Kansas.

The storms extended into North Texas, where 10,000 people spent the night at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, according to airport spokeswoman Sarah McDaniel. Golf ball-sized hail was reported at the airport, and 65 airplanes were pulled out of service because of possible hail damage, she said.

That led to the cancellation of 200 flights last night and another 100 on Wednesday, McDaniel said. In addition, 61 flights scheduled to land at the airport were diverted elsewhere. There were no injuries at the airport, she said.

The Tuesday storms arrived as forecast just two days after a massive tornado tore through Joplin, Mo., killing at least 125 people.

"Way above average temperatures" are combining with a powerful jet stream to fuel strong thunderstorms, which can turn into tornadoes, The Weather Channel's Greg Forbes explained on NBC's TODAY.

He said the weather pattern was likely to continue for the next several weeks and then would taper off into the summer and fall.

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, Ark., shortly after midnight on 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.

Just outside Denning, Eugene Post listened to the tornado from his porch. He saw the lights flicker, as the storms yanked power away from his community.

"I didn't see anything," Post, 83, said early Wednesday. "I could hear it real loud though. ... It sounded like a train - or two or three - going by."

A local fire station was left without a roof as emergency workers tried to rush to the wounded. Downed trees and power lines tossed across roadways also slowed search-and-rescue crews' efforts.

Steve Piltz, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said a strong tornado touched down near Denning, but weather officials weren't able to estimate how fast the winds were blowing without first doing ground surveys.

Frantic search for 3-year-old

Several tornadoes struck Oklahoma City and its suburbs during the Tuesday night rush hour, killing at least eight people and injuring at least 60 others, including three children who were in critical condition.

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

Piedmont Mayor Valerie Thomerson said Wednesday that "we have anything from houses that have shingles blown off, to half the house missing, to the house being completely wiped out, gone."

"My husband and I were driving around yesterday and went past a house and there was a vehicle in the pond in the front yard. The only way I could tell it was a vehicle was I could see four wheels above the water. It was a crushed ball," she added.

Chris Pyle was stunned as he pulled into the suburban neighborhood near Piedmont where he lived as a teenager. His parents' home was destroyed, but the house next door had only a few damaged shingles.

"That's when it started sinking in," he said. "You don't know what to think. There are lots of memories, going through the trash tonight, finding old trophies and pictures."

His parents, Fred and Snow Pyle, rode out the storm in a shelter at a nearby school.

Some residents said they had been warned about the impending weather for days and were watching television or listening to the radio so they would know when to take cover.

"We live in Oklahoma and we don't mess around," Lori Jenkins said. "We kept an eye on the weather and knew it was getting close."

She took refuge with her husband and two children in a neighbor's storm shelter in the Oklahoma City suburb of Guthrie. When they emerged, they discovered their carport had been destroyed and the back of their home was damaged.

Kenneth Hanebaum, 80, and his wife, Margie, 76, escaped injury after hiding under a mattress. The couple's home and dozens of other residences were destroyed, he said.

"We thought it was well south of us and all of the sudden it was on top of us," Kenneth Hanebaum told the Oklahoman on Wednesday.

He said they hid underneath a mattress in the hallway and waited out the storm. They emerged to a scene of devastation with mangled cars, trees stripped of branches and uprooted.

Cherokee Ballard, a spokeswoman for the state medical examiner, said five people died west of Oklahoma City in Canadian County, where a weather-monitoring site in El Reno recorded 151 mph winds. Additionally, Ballard said two people died in Logan County and one in Grady County.

At Chickasha, 25 miles southwest of Oklahoma City, a 26-year-old woman died when a tornado hit a mobile home park where residents had been asked to evacuate their trailers, Assistant Police Chief Elip Moore said.

He said a dozen people were injured and that hundreds were displaced when the storm splintered their homes.

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.

'Evil-looking thing'

In Joplin on Wednesday, the search for missing victims of the weekend's lethal twister inched forward methodically, with city leaders refusing to abandon hope that they would find more survivors even as rescuers prepared to go over ground searched as many as three times already.

A survivor told NBC's Kevin Tibbles that the tornado was "the most evil-looking thing you've ever seen in your life."

The National Weather Service said the Joplin twister was an EF5, the strongest rating assigned to tornadoes, with winds of more than 200 mph.

"We are still in a search-and-rescue mode," said Mark Rohr, Joplin's city manager. "I want to emphasize that."

Late-night tornado sirens had Joplin's residents ducking for cover again before the storm brushed past without serious problems.

The Associated Press, Reuters, NBC News and msnbc.com staff contributed to this report.