LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Tornadoes fueled by unusually warm weather pummeled the South and Midwest on Friday, killing at least six people and injuring dozens more across Arkansas, Missouri and Illinois. Forecasters said storms later in the evening could hit as New Year's Eve celebrations begin along a stretch from near Chicago to New Orleans.
Three people died in the northwestern Arkansas hamlet of Cincinnati when a tornado touched down just before sunrise, and three others died when a storm spawned by the same weather system ripped up the south-central Missouri countryside near Rolla. Several storms were also reported in the St. Louis area.
Forecasters posted tornado watches Friday night for the region and the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., said storms could do more damage from northern Illinois to the Gulf of Mexico.
"It sucked me out of my house and carried me across the road and dropped me," Chris Sisemore of Cincinnati told The Associated Press on Friday. "I was Superman for a while. . . . You're just free-floating through the air. Trees are knocking you and smacking you down."
Sisemore said he tried to crawl under his bed and cling to the carpet, fearful a nearby pecan tree would fall into his home. As he nursed cuts, scrapes and bruises to his arms, knees and back, he recalled opening his eyes as he flew because he didn't believe he'd see 2011.
"I wanted to see the end coming. You're only going to see it one time and I thought that was it," he said. "It takes more than a tornado to get me."
In Missouri, Dent County officials said a 19-year-old woman and an older female relative died at a Lecoma farm where the family lived among three mobile homes and two frame houses. The victims had been in a mobile home, but a mother with her infant was able to run from it to a sturdier home.
"We found debris from one of the trailers a mile away," emergency management coordinator Brad Nash said. "One of the frames of the trailer was 15 feet up in a tree. All the frames were all twisted up," and a refrigerator from one of the mobile homes was found 200 yards away, he said.
Another woman was killed north of Rolla, not far from Lecoma and the Fort Leonard Wood Army base, when a tornado destroyed her home, according to emergency managers in Phelps County.
In Arkansas, Gerald Wilson, 88, and his wife, Mamie, 78, died in their home, and Dick Murray, 78, died after being caught by the storm while milking cows, Washington County Sheriff Tim Helder said.
Sisemore's mother, Margie Sisemore, said her son thought a tree had come crashing through his window.
"He jumped under his bed, said it grabbed his legs - took him up through the ceiling and he landed over yonder," she said, gesturing across the street near where the Wilsons died.