LITTLE ROCK, Ark Violent storms ripped across the south overnight and Friday, killing at least nine people including three children, and cutting a path of destruction through Arkansas' largest city of Little Rock, authorities said on Friday.
Seven people were killed in Arkansas early Friday morning while two were killed in Oklahoma. More fatalities occurred in the area of Clinton, Mississippi, according to Department of Transportation spokeswoman Carrie Adams, but she could not provide a number and referred questions to local police, who could not immediately be reached for comment.
"It was like a bomb went off," said one Clinton man, who did not wish to be identified. His home was destroyed when a tornado passed through the area north of Jackson.
Two tornadoes also were reported in Choctaw County in southwestern Alabama, according to Art Faulkner, director of the Alabama Emergency Management Agency. Forecasters are predicting more storms, according to the National Weather Service, Faulkner said.
Faulkner noted the state has several large events this weekend, including sports events at the University of Alabama and Auburn University, and a major NASCAR race at Talladega expecting more than 100,000 fans. "This is causing us to do some extra planning," Faulkner said.
The Talladega Superspeedway alerted fans on its web site to watch the weather and take necessary precautions.
Among the dead in Arkansas Friday were two boys, ages 6 and 7, and an 18-month-old girl. The seven-year-old and his mother were killed after a tree fell on their house in Little Rock.
The storm left Little Rock with uprooted trees, downed power lines and destroyed traffic signals.
"It looks like a war zone," said Little Rock resident Holly Dunlap, interviewed on Arkansasonline.com. The storm knocked down all but one of about a dozen trees in her yard. "It's crazy to see the aftermath of it all."
The National Weather Service has not confirmed Little Rock was hit by a tornado, but tornadoes were confirmed in other parts of the state.
More storms are expected on Friday afternoon and evening in a secondary storm corridor along the Mississippi River valley through eastern Missouri, northeastern Arkansas, Western Kentucky and southern and perhaps central Illinois, according to Corey Mead, forecaster for the National Storm Prediction Center.
Mead said the storms are expected to bring heavy rainfall with a potential for more tornadoes and large hail. Storms will likely continue overnight in the deep south, moving east across parts of Georgia and the Florida panhandle, Mead said.
Large hail, tornadoes and damaging winds are also possible in eastern Louisiana and the western Carolinas, according to weather.com.
(Reporting by Steve Olafson in Oklahoma City; Leigh Coleman in Ocean Springs, Mississippi; Peggy Gargis in Birmingham; Suzi Parker in Little Rock; Writing by Mary Wisniewski; Editing by Greg McCune)