Six die as tornadoes rip through America

TORNADOES hammered America's South and Midwest on Friday, killing at least six people and injuring dozens more.

Three people died in Arkansas when a tornado hit just before sunrise, and three others died when a storm spawned by the same weather system ripped through rural Missouri. A number of storms were also reported in the St Louis area, fuelled by a high pressure front and unseasonably warm air.

Storms later knocked out power to more than 19,000 Mississippi residents, while broad swathes of Louisiana and Mississippi were under severe weather watches and warnings that threatened New Year's Eve revelry.

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"It sucked me out of my house and carried me across the road and dropped me," said Chris Sisemore of Cincinnati. "I was Superman for a while… You're just free-floating through the air. Trees are knocking you and smacking you down."

Sisemore said he tried to crawl under his bed and cling to the carpet, fearful a nearby pecan nut tree would fall on his home.

In south-central Missouri, 21-year-old Megan Ross and her 64-year-old grandmother Loretta Anderson died at a farm where their family lived among three mobile homes and two timber-frame houses.

A mother and a child in another trailer were able to run to safety in a sturdier built home. The National Weather Service later determined the homes were hit by a weak tornado that was 50 yards wide and travelled less than a mile.

Another woman was killed when a tornado destroyed a home, according to emergency managers in Phelps County.

In Arkansas, Gerald Wilson, 88, and his wife, Mamie, 78, died in their home and Dick Murray, 78, died after being caught by the storm while out milking his cows.

At a nearby military base, Fort Leonard Wood, a tornado with winds of up to 165mph demolished about a dozen homes.