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 could hit along a stretch from near Chicago to New Orleans later in the evening as New Year's Eve celebrations begin.
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 Missouri countryside near Rolla. A number of storms were also reported in the St. Louis area.
The Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., said storms later Friday could do more damage from northern Illinois to the Gulf of Mexico as communities prepare to mark the start of the new year. Forecasters posted tornado watches for the region that were set to run until 8 p.m.
"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.