Severe Weather Kills Seven In Southern States

Apr 15, 2011, 09:31 by John Steele

Hail, high winds and tornado warnings ripped across the South Wednesday leaving seven dead. The high winds were not reported as official tornados but the velocity was severe enough to flip mobile homes and send trees whipping through communities across Arkansas.

The Associated Press reported Friday that senior forecaster with the National Weather Service in North Little Rock Brian Smith sent teams out Friday morning to investigate damage and determine if any tornadoes actually touched down. There were no reports of anyone seeing a tornado doing damage, but there were multiple funnel cloud sightings.

"This has probably been one of the more significant events we've had in awhile," Smith said, adding the overnight timing of the storm system made it particularly dangerous. "A lot of people are caught unaware. Nighttime severe weather events can often be the deadliest."

That was the case for people spending the night in mobile homes and RV's, particularly vulnerable to the weather. According to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, Jeffrey Gibbs II, 24, and his 18-month-old daughter, Rylin, were killed when the top of a tree landed on a mobile home on Pistol Circle around 1 a.m. in Garland County. Meanwhile, James Loftis, 56, was killed when a tree fell on his RV in Pulaski County. In Bald Knob, a six-year-old boy was killed when a tree fell through his house.

Arkansas isn't the only place experiencing severe weather. A tornado touched down in Tushka, Oklahoma Wednesday, killing two and destroying the town's only school.

According to the New York Times, at least 50 homes in the small town (population 405) sustained significant damage as houses had their roofs blown off and mobile homes were pushed off their foundations.

Meteorologists say the storm system is slowly moving eastward and could strike Mississippi and Alabama later Friday.