JON GAMBRELL Associated Press Writer ME N A , A r k a n s a s
Authorities began a house-tohouse search today for possible victims of a tornado that struck a "direct hit" on this mountain community, killing at least three people, injuring at least 30 others and flattening homes and businesses. The twister sliced through the Ouachita Mountains community Thursday night. The county sheriff described the sky turning green, while the airport manager said darkness fell quickly as the twister crossed the Oklahoma line 10 miles away. "Me and the dog ran to the bathroom when we saw it on the TV," said Rick Lanman, the manager of the Mena Airport. "It was here in less than a minute." Sirens warned the community for earlier storms north and south of town. When they sounded a fourth time, "experience was telling me that we we r e i n t r o u b l e , " s a i d Lanman, who said he been through tornadoes before in Oklahoma and Illinois. Before first light today, a convoy of trucks from electric utilities streamed into Mena. Their flashing yellow lights illuminated downed trees and buildings whose roofs and sides had been ripped away. Blue lights from police cruisers lit up debris downtown. "It just looks like a war zone," Mayor George McKee said. Prosecutor Tim Williamson said the s torm uproot e d 100-year-old trees and damaged Civil War-era homes that had been restored. He said the town once looked "pastoral" but added, "It's not anymore." Emergency workers began going door-to-door at first l i g h t t o d a y mo r n i n g . Authorities said they wanted to check on residents as a precaution, although they had no specific reports of people missing. They said they would l ike ly ne ed he lp ge t t ing around fallen trees. The twister tore the roof off a local community college building destroyed two businesses at the city's industrial park, Williamson said. The violent weather was part of a system that caused damage throughout the South and parts of the Midwest. The National Weather Service said a woman was i n j u r e d a t S h r e v e p o r t , Louisiana, when a tree fell onto her car during a tornado. Twisters also damaged homes east of Vinita and near Muse in Oklahoma and at Crossett in far southern Arkansas, near the Louisiana line.