Wildfires erupt in Oklahoma, town evacuates

CNN's Pedram Javaheri reports of the wildfires that have forced one western Oklahoma town to evacuate.

Posted: Apr 16, 2018 6:16 AM
Updated: Apr 16, 2018 6:21 AM

Harsh weather systems are unleashing three sets of menacing conditions Saturday: thunderstorms and tornado risks in the South, more wildfire danger in Oklahoma and the southern Plains, and a blizzard in the upper Plains and upper Midwest.

Severe storms already made their mark in western Arkansas, where a tornado flattened several homes Friday in Mountainburg, the town's mayor told CNN.

Tornadoes also could be in play Saturday in parts of the South, where severe storms are poised to dump heavy rain. Parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and the Florida Panhandle are at an enhanced risk of severe weather conditions such as damaging winds and hail, the Storm Prediction Center said.

Track the severe storms here

Flooding also could occur in those states as well as Arkansas and Tennessee, with more than 4 inches of rain possible in some spots over the weekend.

Mountainburg Mayor Neal Moon told CNN several homes and mobile homes were "completely gone" after Friday's tornado in his town, and many others sustained extensive damage. The tornado hit the elementary school, Moon said, but no children were there at the time.

Details about injuries, if any, weren't immediately available.

There's a storm chaser traffic jam in Tornado Alley

Joshua Brown posted a video of the storm on Twitter, saying, "I think we just drove through rotation in Mountainburg. Saw the wall cloud, saw the rotation. This video does not do it justice cause it formed really quickly."

Oklahoma wildfires kill 1, force evacuations

Meanwhile, the risk of wildfires in Oklahoma -- where blazes already have burned more than 350,000 acres and forced some towns to evacuate -- and parts of the Southwest and southern Plains remains high.

Strong winds -- including gusts of 40 to 50 mph -- and dry conditions mean parts of Texas and Oklahoma are at extreme risk for wildfires Saturday.

Wildfires have been burning for a few days in parts of Oklahoma, leaving at least one man dead.

The largest blaze was in Oklahoma's Dewey County, which by Saturday morning had burned more than 240,000 acres and was only 3% contained, according to the Oklahoma Forestry Services.

Evacuations had been ordered in the Dewey County towns of Vici, Seiling, Taloga and Putnam -- communities with combined populations of nearly 2,000 people -- officials said.

Gov. Mary Fallin announced a state of emergency for 52 counties because of wildfire and drought conditions.

"I'm asking all Oklahomans to be vigilant and careful, and to do their part to prevent fires," Fallin said in a statement Friday. "Anything that can be done to minimize fires will help to keep both our firefighters and the public safe."

Blizzard underway

Yes, this weekend marks the middle of April. And yes, heavy snow is still in the forecast for the northern Plains and Upper Midwest.

Frigid air is filtering south from Canada, and where that air meets moisture, we are seeing blasts of April snow.

Some parts of the northern Plains already have picked up 1 to 2 feet of snow since Thursday. And blizzard warnings -- forecasting heavy snow and strong winds combining for whiteout conditions -- were in place Saturday morning in parts of Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota and Minnesota.

Parts of the northern Plains and the Upper Midwest could receive 8 inches to 2 feet of snow through the weekend.

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