Arkansas Tornado Death Toll Climbs To 15, Could Still Rise

The death toll from an Arkansas tornado has reached 15 and emergency workers say it could still rise as they try to sort through what they say was “utter devastation.”

The large tornado struck in communities northwest of Little Rock, Arkansas, on Sunday night, growing to half a mile wide. The Arkansas tornado death toll has now reached 15 people, most of them in homes in and around Vilonia, a town that was still recovering from a 2011 tornado that killed four people.

Three of the dead were in a home in Paron that was torn from its foundation. The family took shelter under the stairs of their two-story home, but when the tornado ripped the walls away three of them were killed — father Rob Tittle and his daughters, 20-year-old daughter Tori and 14-year-old daughter Rebekah. Emily Tittle, 17, survived the tornado but six of her other siblings were taken to the hospital.

Arkansas Tornado Death Toll Climbs To 15, Could Still Rise

The recovery from the Arkansas tornado may be long and difficult. Faulkner County Sheriff Andy Shock said the area is in “utter devastation,” with many family members still searching for missing relatives.

In Volonia, the newly built $14 million intermediate school, which was set to open in the fall, was destroyed.

“There’s just really nothing there anymore. We’re probably going to have to start all over again,” Vilonia Schools Superintendent Frank Mitchell said after viewing the damage to the building.

Though the Arkansas tornado death toll is at 15 for now, officials said it could likely rise as the recovery process continues.

“We don’t have a count on injuries or missing. We’re trying to get a handle on the missing part,” Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe said at a news conference. “Just looking at the damage, this may be one of the strongest we have seen.”

The Arkansas tornado also struck on the third anniversary of a tornado outbreak that struck a wide swatch of the Southeast, killing more than 300 people across several states.

[Images Via Bing]