Cluster of storms rage through US heartland



Jason Waters, who is with Texas Dept. of Traffic, from Atlanta, Texas, helps to move packages from an overturned semi-trailer on Thursday in Leary, Texas. Robb Pittard, The Associated Press

By Jim Salter

ST. LOUIS —– A line of severe thunderstorms, possible tornadoes and even snow pounded the nation’s heartland on Thursday, flooding nearly 200 roads in Missouri, closing schools in Arkansas and ripping the roofs off dozens of houses in Texas.

The band of storms stretched from Colorado and Nebraska, which was expected to get up to 10 inches of snow, to Texas, where high winds and driving rain at one point left a quarter of a million people without power.

In Missouri, 3-4 inches of rain fell in just a few hours, unleashing flash floods that swamped parts of 180 roads across the state.

Rescuers using ropes and life jackets pulled nine people from the offices of the Monett Times newspaper after the Kelly Creek burst its banks and surrounded the building. Police said the creek also threatened other businesses in downtown Monett and forced the evacuation of a nearby trailer park with about 10 to 12 homes.

Times publisher Lisa Craft said the afternoon newspaper’s presses were high enough not to be threatened. But she said it was unclear when staff could get back in the building.

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National Weather Service hydrologist Mark Fuchs said the Meramec, the eastern Missouri river that flooded in March and forced the evacuation of hundreds of residents, could reach what the service considers “major” flood stage in Arnold, about 20 miles south of St. Louis.

In Texas, at least 100 homes and buildings were damaged in West Texas and the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Straight-line winds carved out a destructive path across the city of Hurst, just east of Fort Worth. Downed trees littered residential neighborhoods, blocking streets, snapping utility poles and snagging power lines. Some large tree trucks had snapped just a foot or two above ground level.

Evelyn Wooten, 69, said she spent early Thursday morning sitting alone in a front-hall closet wearing a motorcycle helmet and waiting out the storm in the sturdiest room in her house.

“I wasn’t going to be hit in the head by a two-by-four,” Wooten said, supervising the cleanup of her Hurst home, which was punctured by a falling tree. “I just made me a cozy little den in there.”

At one point, Oncor had about 250,000 customers without power in North Texas. Some could remain without power until Saturday.

In Arkansas, dozens of roads flooded across the state and schools in Norfork, Marshall and Viola closed due to high water.

In Washington County, in the state’s northwest, officials said damage to roadways was unprecedented. To the south in Sebastian County, cleanup continued from a hailstorm that ripped up roofs and broke windshields as the first wave of storms moved through Wednesday night.

Winds of 70 mph were recorded in thunderstorms in the state’s northwest Thursday.

Flights at Little Rock National Airport were suspended for just under an hour due to a tornado warning.

AP reporters Marcus Kabel and Jeff Carlton contributed to this report