Deadly storms rake Midwest, Branson hit by EF-2

Posted: February 29, 2012 at 5:56 a.m.
Updated: February 29, 2012 at 3:37 p.m.

Emergency crews comb through some of the damage after a severe storm hit in the early morning hours on Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012, in Harrisrbug, Ill.

— A powerful storm system bearing a string of possible tornadoes left at least 9 people dead and dozens injured as it tore roofs from buildings, upturned trailers and wreaked chaos across a broad swath of the Midwest.

Forecasters had predicted conditions ripe for tornadoes before the storms broke out around midnight Tuesday. High winds, severe storms and tornadoes were possible in several southern states as the system tracked eastward Wednesday.

The National Weather Service confirmed Wednesday afternoon that the city of Branson, Mo. was hit by an EF-2 tornado.

At least six people were killed in the southern Illinois town of Harrisburg after a storm leveled much of the community of 9,000 people.

In Missouri, one person was killed in a trailer park in the town of Buffalo. Two more fatalities were reported in the Cassville and Puxico areas.

Heavy storms did roll through parts of northern Arkansas overnight, but there were no reports of significant damage or injuries.

The tornado that hit Branson was part of a cell that seemed to have hopscotched up Highway 76, scattering the area with debris, uprooting road signs, and heavily damaging buildings in the city’s famous theater district.

Skaggs Regional Medical Center in Branson treated 32 people in its emergency department in the hours after the storm, mostly for cuts and bruises, said Michelle Leroux, spokesman for the hospital. Power was out at two non-clinical buildings but otherwise the hospital was operating normally, Leroux said.

Two shelters have been set up, one for residents at the Branson Rec Plex and the other for visitors at Branson Towers Hotel, according to Ozarks First.

Rescue crews were scouring a trailer park south of Buffalo where at least one person was killed after an apparent tornado slammed the area overnight, Lt. Dana Eagan of the Dallas County Sheriff's Office said.

The storm left an additional 13 people at the park injured and knocked out power to all of Buffalo, Eagan said. Buffalo is about 35 miles north of Springfield.

In Arkansas, Fayetteville had a wind gust estimated at 60 mph and Mountain Home reported half-dollar size hail. The National Weather Service says a wall cloud was reported in Cherokee Village early Wednesday and that trees were on the roadways. In Clay County in northeastern Arkansas, spotters reported hail the size of golf balls, while half-dollar-sized hail was reported in Mountain Home.

In neighboring Kansas, the National Weather Service reported brief tornado touchdowns southwest of Hutchinson and Gov. Sam Brownback declared a state of emergency after an apparent tornado struck Harveyville.

The declaration covered Wabaunsee County, southwest of Topeka. The governor’s office said one person was critically injured, several homes and a church were damaged, and trees and power lines were down.

In northern Oklahoma, gusts of up to 80 mph flipped trailers and damaged homes near Cherokee.

Read tomorrow's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

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Damage is seen early Wednesday morning Feb. 29, 2012, in the town of Harveyville in Wabaunsee County, Kansas, after an apparent tornado passed through...

Information for this article was contributed by Arkansas Online staff.