30-Plus Tornados Devastate Arkansas And Oklahoma, Leaving At Least 18 People Dead

At least 18 deaths are reported Monday after more than 30 tornados devastated the southern and midwestern U.S. on Sunday night. Most of the deaths occurred in Arkansas, where 16 people died across three counties, according to the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management. The largest tornado, which at its largest grew to half a mile wide, hit Faulkner County outside of Little Rock, Ark., at about 7 p.m., leaving ten people dead.

Outside Arkansas, two deaths were recorded: one in Quapaw, Oklahoma, and another in Keokuk County, Iowa. The storms were caused by an extremely large storm system that brought bad weather to most of the Midwest and South.

Two small towns north of Little Rock, Vilonia and Mayflower in Faulkner County, reported multiple fatalities from the tornado. Just three years ago, another tornado left four dead in Vilonia. The town was nearly finished constructing a $14 million school scheduled to open this fall — all destroyed by the tornado. The Vilonia superintendent, Frank Mitchell, told the Associated Press that the town would have to rebuild.

There’s just really nothing there any more. We’re probably going to have to start all over again.

The bad weather was predicted earlier Sunday, and February through April is peak tornado season in the southeastern part of the country. The local arm of the National Weather Service issued increasingly grave warnings as the night drew on.

A photo of downtown Vilonia showed twisting piles of wreckage and destroyed buildings.

And here is what the school scheduled to open this fall looks like now:

On Monday President Obama, who's currently visiting the Philippines, pledged federal help to assist the states affected by the disaster.