There were reports of 30 tornadoes in the central US on Tuesday

Updated 10:06 PM EDT, Tue May 21, 2019
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(CNN) —  

Vicious weather brought damaging tornadoes and heavy rains to areas of the central United States already dealing with floodwaters that prompted scores of water rescues over the past two days.

There were at least 30 preliminary reports of tornadoes in the central US on Tuesday, most of the twisters occurring in Kansas and Missouri.

Over the past five days there have been 130 tornado reports, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Storm Prediction Center.

A tornado warning that included the city of St. Louis ended just after 7 p.m. CDT. St. Louis and other cities were then placed under a severe thunderstorm warning. Forecasters warned of 60 mph winds and penny-sized hail.

As the storm passed, St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson, who was at an event in city hall, tweeted: “We are all in the basement of City Hall now- memorable evening.”

The weather service’s tornado Twitter feed indicated there were tornado warnings in Illinois, Kansas and Nebraska. There were tornado watches in Illinois and Missouri.

The Nebraska State Patrol tweeted a photo a trooper took from behind his car. In the distance a funnel stretches from sky to ground.

“This tornado crossed Highway 75 just south of Dawson tonight in Richardson County,” the agency said. “Trooper Zost had this incredible view. He reports it stayed in a field so not likely much damage to structures, if any.”

Scores of water rescues

Rescuers pulled people from fast-moving floodwaters in middle Oklahoma and carried them to safety after strong storms swamped the area.

In Payne County, home to 82,000 people, emergency responders have conducted more than 30 water rescues, the board of commissioners said in a news release. Between 6 and 8 inches of rain fell Monday, officials said.

Floodwater closed parts of Interstate 40 in Canadian County, just west of Oklahoma City, after storms hit late Monday and early Tuesday.

In that county, high water was lapping up against homes in a rural area near the community of El Reno on Tuesday morning, and fire departments’ swift water rescue teams were using boats to take residents to drier land.

Also in the area, video from CNN affiliate KFOR showed a woman clinging to a tree as floodwaters rushed around her. After one rescuer reached her and fastened a line to her, two others pulled her to safety.

A man helps a woman who was found clinging to a tree Tuesday morning near El Reno, Oklahoma.
KFOR
A man helps a woman who was found clinging to a tree Tuesday morning near El Reno, Oklahoma.

Video from CNN affiliate KOCO also showed a team of four firefighters pushing a boat containing four people against a current, up a driveway that had become a stream.

One rescued woman, Tammy Flowers, told CNN that she and some relatives tried to leave their farm with a tractor, but it became stuck. Her son stayed behind, she said, hoping to tend to some cattle.

“It’s not good. The water is coming up and it’s really deep,” she said.

Firefighters guide a boat carrying four people against fast-moving floodwaters near El Reno, Oklahoma, on Tuesday morning.
KOCO
Firefighters guide a boat carrying four people against fast-moving floodwaters near El Reno, Oklahoma, on Tuesday morning.

More than 40 water rescues had been performed Monday night into Tuesday morning, Canadian County Emergency Management Director Andrew Skidmore said.

While rain stopped in that area, severe storms still are expected to rake the central Plains, Missouri, Illinois, Arkansas, and parts of Texas and Louisiana.

Residents urged to seek higher ground