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Crews search for missing after twisters hit Texas, Arkansas

by The Associated Press | May 11, 2015 at 7:20 a.m. | Updated May 11, 2015 at 10:36 a.m.

VAN, Texas — Emergency responders searched through wreckage in parts of Texas and Arkansas early Monday after a line of tornadoes battered several small communities, killing a young couple whose daughter survived and injuring dozens of others.

At daybreak, as many as 10 people were still missing, raising the possibility that the number of dead could climb.

The couple in their late 20s or early 30s died when a twister hit their mobile home late Sunday in the Arkansas town of Nashville, Howard County Coroner John Gray said. Their daughter was 1 or 2 years old. He did not release the parents' names.

Once the word spreads, he added, it will be a sad week for the community.

"That's what it's like in a small town," Gray said. "You either know them or you know somebody who knows them."

Howard County Sheriff Brian McJunkins told KLSA-TV that two other people in the town about 50 miles north of Texarkana were critically hurt.

In neighboring Texas, a likely tornado pummeled the small city of Van. Chuck Allen, the fire marshal and emergency management coordinator for Van Zandt County, said about 30 percent of the community was damaged.

Preliminary reports indicate 20 to 25 tornadoes formed Sunday in South Dakota, Iowa, Oklahoma and Texas, according to meteorologist Greg Carbin of the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma.

The storm system was expected to slowly move east, he said, with a low possibility for tornadoes in lower Michigan on Monday. Thunderstorms were forecast from Texas to the Great Lakes region.

"This is certainly not an atypical system for spring where you've got the remnants of winter but the onset of summer," Carbin said.

In Van, 10 adults were unaccounted for and 26 had been taken to hospitals. The extent of their injuries was not immediately clear. About 50 people stayed overnight at a church shelter, Allen said Monday at a news conference.

The damage ranged "from completely destroyed homes, damaged homes, to trees and power lines down," Allen said in an email to The Associated Press.

Authorities were going door to door in the city of 2,600 about 70 miles southeast of Dallas, searching for injured people.

Utility companies were working to restore damaged infrastructure, and road and bridge crews sought to reopen streets and highways to provide access to first responders, he said.

The American Red Cross planned to open a shelter at First Baptist Church in Van, Allen said. Calls to the church rang unanswered early Monday.

The Van Independent School District said on its website that schools would be closed Monday.

The National Weather Service believes at least one tornado hit Van on Sunday night, senior meteorologist Eric Martello said. Weather service crews were surveying the area Monday.

Floods resulting from the same storm system that rolled across north Texas caused a huge sinkhole to open up in Granbury, some 40 miles southwest of Fort Worth. The 40-foot-wide sinkhole swallowed the parking lot of a supermarket and damaged water and sewer lines beneath, WFAA-TV reported.

Farther north, in Lake City, Iowa, a suspected tornado tore the roof from a high school as about 150 students, family and faculty attended an awards ceremony inside Sunday night.

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