tornadoArkansas and neighboring states are picking up the pieces this morning after a series of tornadoes last night that killed at least 18 people – 16 of them in Arkansas alone. Rescuers whose search efforts were hindered by darkness fear that number may rise today as they resume their task, using bulldozers and backhoes to comb through the rubble.

News sources also reported fatalities in Arkansas and Oklahoma. An estimated 31 tornadoes raced through the Plains and the South, destroying dozens of homes and businesses. In Faulkner County, Ark. alone, Sheriff Andy Shock said at least 150 homes were leveled.Approximately 20,000 people in Arkansas were left without power.

More to come

Even as survivors are pouring into Red Cross shelters -- where they’re being given food, water, blankets and other supplies, meteorologists are warning that there is more extreme weather on the way for a wide swath of the country. Severe thunderstorms and the threat of tornadoes are in the forecast today and tomorrow for Iowa, Ohio, Louisiana, Alabama, Tennessee and the Carolinas. Flooding due to heavy rainfall could also be a threat.

Click here for more weather information.

A tornado app - with siren

The Red Cross offers a Tornado App with lifesaving safety tools for download on iPhone and Android. The app actually includes a loud siren – that sounds like an actual tornado siren – that goes off when a tornado is close to the your mobile device.

The Red Cross also recommends that people prepare for tornadoes by:

  • Determine which room in your house is safest (one that’s on the ground floor or in a basement and away from windows).
  • Put together an emergency kit that contains first aid supplies, food, water, flashlights and maps (and place the emergency kit in the safe room).
  • Set up a plan for how you and your family members can reach each other in case of an emergency
  • Turn off all the utilities before the tornado strikes to avoid potential gas leaks.
  • If you are caught outside when a tornado strikes, don’t hide under a bridge or overpass. If you’re in a car, stay low and cover yourself with a blanket if possible to protect yourself from shattered glass windows and other debris.
  • People who live in mobile homes should predetermine a safe place to go in the event of a tornado.
  • Monitor local weather reports.

Tornado Watch v. Tornado Warning

Because most people only have a few minutes to seek shelter from a tornado, it’s important to know the difference between a Tornado Watch and a Tornado Warning:

Tornado Watch - Tornadoes are possible in and near the watch area. Review and discuss your emergency plans, and check supplies and your safe room. Be ready to act quickly if a warning is issued or you suspect a tornado is approaching. Acting early helps to save lives!

Tornado Warning - A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Tornado warnings indicate imminent danger to life and property. Go immediately under ground to a basement, storm cellar or an interior room (closet, hallway or bathroom).

Click here for more information on tornado preparedness from the Red Cross.