Tornado Death Toll Climbs

Reuters

The death toll from a monster tornado that hit Joplin, Missouri, rose to 125 on Wednesday after an overnight search turned up more bodies but no new survivors, authorities said.

In nearby states, meanwhile, the toll from tornadoes that struck late on Tuesday and early on Wednesday rose to 13. Arkansas officials confirmed three deaths there, and Oklahoma officials said the storms had left eight dead there. On Tuesday, two deaths had been confirmed in Kansas.

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A fresh line of tornadoes and thunderstorms had rumbled through the Midwest again overnight.

Joplin was spared another tornado, but still experienced harsh weather as search teams pressed on following the monster tornado that devastated the town of 50,000 on Sunday.

Using cadaver dogs and heavy equipment, they sought both the living and the dead amid the wreckage of homes, businesses, schools and churches.

About 1,500 people have been reported missing and some 750 people were injured in Joplin, according to authorities.

Authorities said on Tuesday that the Joplin tornado was upgraded to an EF-5, or the highest rating possible on the Enhanced Fujita scale of tornado power and intensity. The Joplin tornado had previously been rated as an EF-4.

EF-5 tornadoes are rare in the United States but already this year there have been at least four -- two in Mississippi, one in Alabama last month, and Joplin. They are so destructive that experts said they can turn a house into an aerial missile.

In Oklahoma, officials were searching for two missing children on Wednesday morning, said Amy Elliott of the state medical examiner's office.

The storms in Oklahoma spared bigger cities and plowed through small communities, leaving cars overturned and ripping roofs off houses.

In Newcastle, south of Oklahoma City, a storm blew the steeple off Jesus Alive Church and flung it nearly 100 yards away, where it landed on the doorstep of the longtime pastor's 86-year-old mother, Lovina Frizzell.

"I said, 'Oh, my goodness, there's the steeple,'" Frizzell told Reuters on Tuesday evening as she stood on her front porch sweeping. "Yes, it's quite a mess."

In Arkansas, the National Weather Service reported that a large tornado devastated the town of Denning, in Franklin County, just south of Altus, known for its vineyards and Arkansas wine. Denning has a population of about 200.

Storms also extended into North Texas, where 10,000 people spent the night at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, according to airport spokeswoman Sarah McDaniel. Golfball-sized hail was reported at the airport, and 65 airplanes were pulled out of service because of possible hail damage, she said.

That led to the cancelation of 200 flights last night and another 100 today, McDaniel said. In addition, 61 flights scheduled to land at the airport were diverted elsewhere. There were no injuries at the airport, she said.

Many of the stranded passengers slept on cots provided by the airport. Concessions stayed open.

"Others spent the night anywhere they could," McDaniel said. "We had people passing out coffee to the passengers."

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