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Possible tornado tears through Arkansas town

Story Highlights

• Seventy-eight people spending night in shelters, official says
KTHV: Four suspected looters arrested; curfew in effect
• Police: 12 people hurt in Arkansas
• Possible tornadoes in Mississippi, Louisiana
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DUMAS, Arkansas (CNN) -- A possible tornado shredded several businesses and homes in a small Arkansas town Saturday, injuring about a dozen people, some of them seriously, police told a local TV station.

Seventy-eight people in Dumas were spending the night in shelters set up after the storm, said Tina Owens of Arkansas Emergency Management. A curfew was in effect until 7 a.m. Sunday.

"Right now were just trying to assess the damage and take care of the citizens' needs for this evening," she said. (Watch a survivor describe debris falling as storm hit Video)

"We'll definitely look at the recovery efforts, but right now our immediate effect is to deal with those citizens with injuries and making sure we've got those people taken care of tonight."

Police have arrested four people suspected of looting, KTHV reported.

The storm slammed into one of the town's main thoroughfares, destroying most of the businesses along U.S. 65, including a Fred's department store, where employee Bobbie Thomas was working.

"We all got on the floor," Thomas said. "All the debris was falling on us ... and I said, 'Lord, all I want you to do is save us today, because it's in your hands.'" (Watch buildings that have been turned to splinters, cars crushed Video)

Fred's was among several buildings destroyed by the storm, the station reported. The National Weather Service reported that parts of cars were hanging in trees in the storm zone.

There were no reports of fatalities, but about a dozen people were reported injured, some seriously, Arkansas State Police Cpl. Ray Siggers told KTHV.

James Robinson of Winchester told The Associated Press he saw a black cloud approaching and pulled into a McDonald's parking lot.

"It sounded just like a locomotive train, not real fast," Robinson told AP. He said he helped a woman into the restaurant, and then hid in the walk-in freezer, according to AP.

Damage from possible tornadoes was also reported in Mississippi and Louisiana.

The National Weather Service said damage that occurred early Saturday in Bossier City, Louisiana, was consistent with an EF-1 type tornado under the new Enhanced Fujita (EF) scale for rating twister damage.

Wind speeds were estimated between 90 and 100 mph.

Several Dumas restaurants, a Mad Butcher grocery store and some nearby homes were leveled, KTHV reported. Video from the scene showed several buildings rendered nearly unrecognizable. A sign for a street located a mile away was lying in the grocery store parking lot.

The Salvation Army, the Red Cross and a local Mennonite chapter was helping residents whose homes were damaged.

The storm also overturned a tractor-trailer in a store parking lot and destroyed an electricity substation, which knocked out power to the area, AP reported.

The National Weather Service said it had received a report that parts of cars were hanging in trees north of Dumas along U.S. 65. The possible tornado struck just before 3 p.m. CT (4 p.m. ET). (NWS storm reports from past three hoursexternal link)

Police said they were making a door-to-door search for victims, according to The Associated Press. Emergency crews called for ambulances from a nearby county, AP reported.

Dumas and the surrounding region is located in what experts call "tornado alley," a zone across the nation where twisters often form.

Damage from a possible tornado was also reported in Tichnor, in southern Arkansas County, just northwest of Dumas. Residents reported a tornado passed near the Tichnor post office, the National Weather Service said.

Severe storms with tornado threats were moving at least 60 mph, and stretched from northern Louisiana to Arkansas. The line of storms was heading into northwest Mississippi and toward southwest Tennessee.

Staff from the Arkansas Department of Emergency were en route to Desha County to assess damage and injuries, spokeswoman Tina Owens told CNN.

"Hopefully it's hit in an area where not too many people are affected," she said. Owens said the agency had only received reports of minor damage so far in the mostly rural area.

In Texas, dozens of grass fires were fueled by winds reaching 60 mph, AP reported. Flames destroyed three homes near Midland, and in Fort Hood fires prompted evacuations, authorities told AP. No injuries were reported.

Copyright 2007 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

Residents examine rubble from a home in Union County, north of Strong, Arkansas, on Saturday.


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