April 4, 2014 Updated: April 4, 2014 at 8:37 am
ST. LOUIS — Thunderstorms were crawling across a large swath of the Midwest and South on Thursday, spawning suspected tornadoes in Missouri and Texas, and slamming several states with large hail and heavy rain that prompted a handful of water rescues.
Four people were injured in Texas when a suspected tornado destroyed a farmhouse and a mobile home Thursday night near Merit, about 40 miles northeast of Dallas. Hunt County Sheriff Randy Meeks said the injuries weren't life-threatening, though he didn't have details.
Storms pummeled the North Texas college city of Denton with hail as large as baseballs, leading to reports of broken windows and other damage. The National Weather Service in Tulsa noted reports of hail up to the size of ping pong balls and strong wind gusts.
Arkansas saw smaller hail, and falling tree limbs knocked out power in western parts of the state.
The heaviest rainfall was tapering off around midnight, though flash-flood warnings will remain in effect through daybreak in eastern Missouri, southern Illinois and Indiana, and western Kentucky because of runoff from the torrential rains, according to the National Weather Service.
No injuries resulted from the twister that hit University City just west of St. Louis shortly before 5:30 a.m., damaging about 100 homes in winds that reached up to 110 mph, weather service meteorologist Jayson Gosselin said.
That system also carried heavy rain. Up to 5 inches fell in parts of Missouri, prompting flash flooding that damaged dozens of homes and forced at least two water rescues.
In University City, a densely populated area, the city opened a shelter for evacuees. Gov. Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency.
Rainfall was heavy over much of Missouri and western Illinois. The National Weather Service said portions of Johnson County, Mo., had more than 5 inches of rain, causing flash flooding that forced evacuation of some homes in the Warrensburg area. Highway T in Johnson County was closed after rushing water washed out three culverts.
At least two drivers had to be rescued from water that swamped their cars. Even a three-person rescue team was briefly imperiled when flood debris clogged their jet skis. They eventually floated to safety.
Heavy rains also flooded some roads in Indiana, and conservation officers said they had rescued at least eight people.
Associated Press writers Maria Fisher in Kansas City, Mo., and Alan Scher Zagier in University City contributed to this report.