50 to 60 still unaccounted for in Vilonia; trail of destruction 15 miles long, three miles wide

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The National Weather Service says first light has revealed the track of a deadly tornado that flattened trees and power lines, tore the roofs from homes and left a debris-strewn path through a small central Arkansas town.

The tornado that swiped Vilonia late Monday killed at least four residents, while the severe storms sweeping much of the Midwest left at least three people dead elsewhere in the state.

Emergency crews are preparing to search for dozens of people still missing early Tuesday before more forecast storms strike the area in the afternoon.

Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe declared a state of emergency Monday night. So far this month, 14 people have died in storm-related incidents in the state.

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The suspected tornado that hit Vilonia left a path of damage three miles wide and 15 miles long, officials said. Between 50 to 80 houses were destroyed, according to Faulkner County emergency management.

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The Madison County Sheriff's Office said an elderly couple died after they were swept away in their car as War Eagle Creek in northern Arkansas flooded on Monday afternoon. Another woman died after her vehicle was swept off the road in Washington County.

The severe weather system that affected the state was expected to move into Illinois and Wisconsin Tuesday.

Church destroyed

Arkansas State Police said a church was destroyed in Morgan, Arkansas, just northwest of Little Rock.

A tornado also struck Little Rock Air Force Base, with initial reports indicating at least four homes in base housing were damaged. More than 100,000 people were without power in the state, authorities said.

Authorities had closed off the roadways leading into Vilonia after the storm struck there.

"The town's gone," said Vilonia resident Sheldon Brock, although he said his house was spared.

Another resident told NBC News she and a loved one rode out the storm holding onto each other (on this page) . "We just said we loved each other, and that was about it."

Vilonia's fire chief, Keith Hillman, said 50 to 60 weren't accounted for, but he expected many simply weren't reachable. He said he didn't expect the death toll to rise significantly.

More than a dozen tornadoes were reported in Texas and Arkansas on Monday night.

Widespread damage was reported in largely rural Houston County in East Texas, but the severity wasn't clear because much of the area was without power, Fire Marshal David Lamb.

More storms expected

Tornadoes and floods threatened at least two more days of destruction, weather forecasters said on Tuesday.

"Tuesday and Wednesday will be particularly bad," warned Meteorologist Dan Kottlowski on AccuWeather.com.

Some of the same cities still recovering from twisters that ripped through Arkansas on Monday may be struck again, he said. The next outbreak was expected to start in northeastern Texas and southwestern Arkansas later Tuesday and move into the Tennessee Valley by evening.

A flash flood watch was issued through Wednesday morning for most of Arkansas, said the National Weather Service.

"This is a particularly dangerous situation," the NWS said in an online statement. "Serious flood issues may develop in some areas, including high water rescues and road closures."

The storms and flooding were the latest in the violent weather that has pummeled much of the mid-South this month. Two weeks ago more than 47 people died as storms tore a wide path from Oklahoma all the way to North Carolina.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.