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NEW YORK — Severe weather on Wednesday has left tornado watches in parts of eight states, including some areas that are still clearing damage from a swarm of twisters that struck last week.
Parts of Arkansas, northern Louisiana, eastern Texas and southeastern Oklahoma have been under tornado watch issued by the National Weather Service since Wednesday morning. Wednesday afternoon, the NWS issued additional tornado watches for Missouri, Kentucky, Illinois and Indiana.
The tornado watches are expected to remain in effect through Wednesday evening.
The Weather Service has also reported winds up to 75 mph in some parts of the tornado-watch zone stretching from New Orleans to Evansville, Indiana, and inch-size hail in Oklahoma.
A major storm system is moving east from the Rocky Mountains and is expected to cause severe weather in the South and Midwest.
Severe weather is forecast for major cities like Dallas; New Orleans; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Jackson, Mississippi; Memphis, Tennessee; and Mobile, Alabama.
A tornado touched down in Springdale, Arkansas on Wednesday, causing extensive damage to an elementary school and injuring seven people, two seriously, according to Little Rock ABC affiliate KATV.
The Springdale School District said on its Facebook page that George Elementary School was damaged by a possible tornado. The district posted photos showing the destroyed elementary school gymnasium and reported that the school’s kitchen and cafeteria were severely damaged.
The NWS said Wednesday afternoon that the damage done in Springdale indicates the tornado that made landfall was a strong EF-2 on the Enhanced Fujita scale. EF-2 twisters can take winds in excess of 150 mph, according to the scale.
A tornado watch means conditions are favorable for tornadoes and severe thunderstorms in and near the viewing area. People in those areas are advised to be alert to impending weather conditions and to monitor announcements from local authorities.
The National Weather Service issued a tornado warning Tuesday night as storms moved into Oklahoma’s Seminole County, with gusts of 60 miles per hour and hail the size of an inch.
The weather service also confirmed a tornado in eastern St. Joseph, Missouri on Tuesday evening. No injuries were reported immediately and a damage assessment will take place on Wednesday.
Emergency officials in Oklahoma had to deal with not only tornado warnings Wednesday, but also fire warnings. Evacuations have been issued in Roger Mills County, Oklahoma, due to a wildfire. Roger Mills Emergency Management officials on Tuesday asked residents to evacuate their homes in the Durham and Dead Warrior Lake areas of northwest Roger Mills County, where severe weather is expected on Wednesday.
Some areas where tornado watches have been issued were hit last week by more than 60 tornadoes moving through the Southeast. Most tornadoes were reported in Texas, where a 73-year-old woman was killed and 10 people injured in Grayson County.
Two tornadoes touched down in New Orleans on March 22, causing extensive damage in St. Bernard’s Parish, including the Ninth Ward, Chalmette and Arabi. One person was killed in Arabi, officials said.
This week’s severe weather has also spread to the northeast, where a snowstorm on Monday led to a multiple car pile-up on Interstate 81 in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania state police said six people were killed in the Schuylkill County collision, including 39 commercial vehicles and 41 passenger vehicles.
Interstate 81 reopened just after midnight Wednesday after an investigation and clearance.
Max Golembo and Whitney Lloyd of ABC News contributed to this report.
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