- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 28, 2017

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - The Latest on severe weather in the central United States (all times local):

11 p.m.

One death has been confirmed after an apparent tornado swept across a rural area of southeast Missouri.

Perry County Clerk Jared Kutz says one person was killed and eight to 10 homes near the town of Perryville were badly damaged when the storm hit around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday. Several cars and trucks were blown off of Interstate 55.

Search and rescue crews were going door-to-door to check on people in the area where homes were damaged, and were searching for anyone who may have been injured on the interstate.

Kutz says emergency management officials in the county aren’t certain it was a tornado, but Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens says in a statement that there are confirmed reports of a tornado.

Kutz had no details about the person who was killed.

The American Red Cross set up a shelter for storm victims in Perryville, about 80 miles south of St. Louis.

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9:10 p.m.

At least one person was killed when a tornado spawned by a late-winter storm system swept through the central Illinois city of Ottawa.

Illinois Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman Patti Thompson says the victim, who hasn’t been identified, was killed Tuesday by an uprooted tree. It hasn’t been determined how many people were injured by the storm.

Thompson says the extent of the damage caused by high winds won’t be determined until Wednesday. However, a twister hit the LaSalle County Nursing Home in Ottawa. A woman answering the telephone at the nursing home said several residents reported bumps and bruises but no serious injuries.

Emergency crews also were sent to the Village of Naplate, where several structures, including a factory, were damaged.

Thompson says storm damage was also reported in Woodford County, east of Peoria. No injuries were reported.

A tornado watch remained in effect in northern and central Illinois late Tuesday.

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8:15 p.m.

A wildfire destroyed four homes in a West Texas town and threatened others before firefighters halted its forward progress.

Texas A&M; Forest Service spokesman Phillip Truitt said the fire advanced Tuesday evening on Tulia, 50 miles south of Amarillo, and prompted the evacuation of almost 1,200 homes in the Mackenzie Hills neighborhood on the southern edge of town. Crews halted the forward progress of the blaze shortly after nightfall and the agency reported the fire 25 percent contained after it charred 2,200 acres.

Truitt said two of the four homes lost weren’t occupied and bulldozers saved 20 other homes.

Also, a wildfire Tuesday briefly threatened the town of Sundown, about 40 miles west of Lubbock. Truitt said conditions improved in time to spare the town after scorching 8,500 acres with 50 percent containment.

High winds in the area were part of a strong storm system crossing the central United States.

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7 p.m.

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner has activated the state’s emergency operations center as local officials reported damage from tornados spawned by a late-winter storm system.

Officials say activation of the State Emergency Operations Center will ensure state agencies are in place to give any assistance needed by those affected by Tuesday’s storms.

A twister hit the LaSalle County Nursing Home in Ottawa in central Illinois. A woman answering the telephone at the nursing home said several residents reported bumps and bruises but no serious injuries.

Patients at the nursing home were evacuated to a nearby school.

Emergency crews have been sent to the Village of Naplate, where several structures were heavily damaged and there were fears people are trapped under the debris.

A tornado watch remained in effect in northern and central Illinois until 10 p.m.

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5:55 p.m.

The National Weather Service reports a tornado touched down in central Illinois, spawned from a weather system covering the central part of the nation that is expected to produce severe weather into the evening.

Early reports indicated the tornado caused damage Tuesday afternoon to buildings in Ottawa, located southwest of Chicago. One of the buildings damaged was the LaSalle County Nursing Home.

A woman answering the telephone at the nursing home says several residents reported bumps and bruises, but no serious injuries. Trees and powerlines were also downed in the area.

Jamie Enderelen of the National Weather Service says the tornado was first reported in the southern section of Ottawa and moved northeast, where it dissipated near the town of Morris in Grundy County.

A tornado watch is in effect for central and northern Illinois until 10 p.m.

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4:15 p.m.

Tornado watches were posted across a large part of the nation’s midsection as forecasters warned of significant foul weather.

The Storm Prediction Center said a several bouts of severe weather were possible Tuesday in an area from Arkansas to Ohio. Nearly 44 million people were warned to be on the lookout for twisters, high winds and hail.

Storms erupted quickly in Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa and Illinois and moved eastward before sunset. There were no immediate reports of injuries or major damage. The threat was expected to last overnight through parts of the Mississippi and Ohio valleys before moving into the southeastern states Wednesday.

Forecasters warned of a “moderate risk” of severe weather, and were especially concerned about the area from Poplar Bluff, Missouri, to Louisville, Kentucky. They expected storm ingredients to merge in the area and trigger tornadoes.

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2:45 p.m.

Forecasters say a large part of the central United States faces an increased risk for significant tornadoes, including some overnight, in a late-winter storm system.

The Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma, says severe storms could impact 44 million people Tuesday in an area stretching from Arkansas to Ohio. The greatest risk for strong twisters was in an area from Poplar Bluff, Missouri, to Louisville, Kentucky, though the area from Arkansas to Ohio would also be affected.

Forecaster Ariel Cohen, who raised Tuesday’s threat level to a “moderate risk” of severe weather, says sunshine was warming the region and roiling the atmosphere.

Also, strong winds would worsen “extremely critical” wildfire conditions in the Texas Panhandle, western Oklahoma and southeastern New Mexico.

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