More severe weather and tornadoes forecast for Oklahoma, Ozarks

LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas (REUTERS) - Another round of dangerous weather, with baseball-sized hail and tornadoes, was predicted for Oklahoma and parts of the Ozarks on Friday, a day after more than a dozen reported twisters ripped through the region, United States (US) forecasters said.

Storms in Oklahoma and Arkansas on Thursday left an Arkansas county sheriff dead and at least one man missing in an attempted water rescue and at least seven other people injured elsewhere, officials said.

"The atmosphere will become extremely unstable this afternoon, especially in Oklahoma, while winds in the atmosphere will be favorable for organised severe storms, including a few supercell thunderstorms," the National Weather Service said in an advisory.

The body of Scott County Sheriff Cody Carpenter was recovered early Friday, said Mr Keith Stephens, a spokesman for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. Authorities continued to search for a missing state game warden after Thursday night's rescue attempt along the Fourche La Fave River.

A man died in Tull, Arkansas, when a tree fell on his car during a possible tornado, said Pete Roberts, Grant County sheriff's office chief deputy. A Scott County official said a woman's body was found in floodwaters on Friday.

Arkansas had numerous reports of damage from high winds, heavy rain and possible tornadoes. Entergy Arkansas reported about 15,000 people were without power, down from a peak of about 30,000 customers early Friday.

Mr Brian Smith, a National Weather Service forecaster in North Little Rock, said damage assessment teams were surveying several counties on Friday after the reports of several tornadoes.

Several storms produced straight-line wind damage and heavy repeated rain, causing flash flooding across Arkansas, he said.

Little Rock received more than 7.6cm of rain in one hour, breaking the hourly record for the state capital, with more thunderstorms and heavy rain possible on Friday, he said.

Large, long-lasting thunderstorms known as supercells are responsible for producing the strongest tornadoes, along with large hail and other dangerous winds.

"Very large hail to the size of baseballs or larger can be expected with the most intense storms late this afternoon and evening," the Weather Service advisory said.

Oklahoma City and Tulsa, Oklahoma, as well as Springfield, Missouri may all be buffeted by Friday's severe weather and possible tornado touchdowns, said Mr Rich Thompson, a lead forecaster at the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma.

The danger zone included Joplin, Missouri, he added. Joplin was hit by a monster tornado, one of the most catastrophic in US history, that killed 161 people and destroyed about 7,500 homes two years ago.

On Friday, the focus was going to be from south-west Missouri into Oklahoma, Thompson said, referring to the area often referred to as "Tornado Alley".

The twisters on Thursday sent Oklahoma residents scrambling for cover 10 days after a deadly EF-5 tornado struck Moore, Oklahoma, and killed 24 people.

The May 20 tornado damaged or destroyed about 13,000 homes in the Oklahoma City suburb.