Tornadoes and springlike thunderstorms swept across Arkansas today, flattening buildings, sweeping away mobile homes and flooding whole subdivisions. As many as 20 were killed and 200 injured.
Storms also tore through Mississippi, Kentucky, and West Virginia, killing up to six people. In Ohio, one person was killed and four others were missing as flood waters rose. A search suspended tonight because of darkness was to resume on Sunday.
Four people died in Arkadelphia, Ark., one of the hardest hit areas.
"It's horrible. The whole downtown is gone," said resident Jeremy Cox.
"There's one mobile home left standing out of I don't know how many, maybe about 60," Arkadelphia Police Chief Bob Johnston said. "We lost count of the serious injuries at 19."
Neal Wright, 11, heard sirens and alerted his deaf grandfather by making swirling motions with his hands. The two escaped before a tree fell on their house, demolishing it, said Sharon Wright, the boy's mother.
Gov. Mike Huckabee warned Arkansas' death toll could rise. "The number one concern is that we've got people buried under debris," he said.
Huckabee said the state may have been hit with as many tornadoes in one day as struck all of last year.
Hundreds of homes in the Little Rock area were damaged, and two hospitals were treating 80 people. "This is as bad as I've seen it," said state police Lt. Robert Felcher.
Trailer park owner Bill Pruett, 53, said a twister crushed five trailers.
"It was like playing chess: It would take one house and then leave one; it would take another one and then leave one," he said.
The storms pulled the roof off Leah Wooten's house in southwest Little Rock.
"I saw a big black cloud," she said. "I started seeing everything flying around. I got into the bathtub and put a hamper over my head so glass wouldn't fly into my eyes, and within a minute, it was over."
Heavy rain, strong wind and downed power lines were reported across Arkansas, said Ray Briggler, a spokesman for the state Office of Emergency Services. A tornado that struck Randolph, Miss., early today destroyed four homes and damaged nearly a dozen other homes and businesses. Four people were hospitalized. The twister killed 50-year-old Huey Totor, throwing his body 75 feet from his mobile home, said coroner Barry Moorman.
"Parts of the mobile home were scattered over a large area," he said. "Just the metal frame was intact."
A record 9.6 inches of rain fell in Louisville. Rescue workers pulled people from the roofs of cars stalled in as much as six feet of water and carried others out of flooded homes.
A woman was killed when she drove her van off an 80-foot cliff Friday night during heavy rain that severely reduced visibility, authorities said. The van was found today in the rain-swollen Barren River in south-central Kentucky.
Another person died when a pickup truck ran off a bridge in western Kentucky, and a 13-year-old boy drowned when he was swept into a culvert just east of Louisville.
Hopkinsville, in southwestern Kentucky, received about eight inches of rain and officials ran out of "Road Closed" signs. The weather also canceled a congressional hearing scheduled for today in western Kentucky because the Air Force decided it was too dangerous to fly House members into the state.
Several people were reported missing along southern Ohio's Great Brush Creek, which was eight feet above flood stage, and authorities searched the area with helicopters and boats. The body of a 16-year-old boy was found near the confluence of two creeks north of the Ohio River town of Rome.
"Some folks say their homes went on downstream -- mobile homes and the like," said Paul Hawelett, director of the Adams County Management Agency.
A woman's body was found in a flooded creek in western Tennessee several hours after high water swept her car off a bridge. A man riding with her was missing, but her son, initially listed as missing, later was found at home.
A teenage girl died in western Tennessee when a tornado ripped through her home.
The storms also flooded valleys in southwestern West Virginia, forcing scattered evacuations, and a mudslide closed one highway.
"It came up so quickly," Phyllis Harvey said of the 3 1/2 feet water outside her home in Genoa. CAPTION: Police and others inspect wreckage in Arkadelphia, Ark. "The whole downtown is gone," said a resident. CAPTION: A family surveys the damage to a Little Rock neighborhood after a tornado hit. Hundreds of homes in the area were damaged, and hospitals treated scores of people.