Updated: Fri, 31 May 2013 09:14:28 GMT | By John Newland, Staff Writer, NBC News

Arkansas flash flooding kills sheriff, sweeps away officer, official says

A wall cloud forms near Purcell, Okla., on Thursday. At least three twisters struck Oklahoma and Arkansas.

A wall cloud forms near Purcell, Okla., on Thursday. At least three twisters struck Oklahoma and Arkansas.

Severe thunderstorms packing high winds, heavy rains, large hail and possibly tornadoes threatened eastern Oklahoma and much of Arkansas Friday, where flash flooding killed a sheriff and left a wildlife officer missing.

The death of Scott County Sheriff Cody Carpenter was confirmed Friday by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, which said it was still in search-and-rescue mode for missing wildlife officer Joel Campora.

Carpenter had been responding to a swift water rescue near the Fourche La Fave River in western Arkansas, close to the Oklahoma border, when flash floods overcame him, according to the Game and Fish Commission. 

Thursday’s storms also injured nine.

Tornado watches were in effect Friday across much of Arkansas, extending into southern Missouri and eastern Oklahoma, according to the National Weather Service. Strong storms with the potential to produce large hail were simultaneously forming to the north, in northeastern Kansas and northwestern Missouri, the weather service said.

A slight risk of severe thunderstorms extended from northern Texas to the Great Lakes in a 300,000-square-mile swath home to 42 million people and major cities including Chicago, Detroit, Kansas City, Milwaukee and Indianapolis, the service said.

On Thursday, two tornadoes were confirmed in Oklahoma and a third struck in Arkansas. Many more severe storms were reported, however. The weather service logged 16 reports of tornadoes in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Illinois, and said a house was reported to have been destroyed, injuring two people, in Oden, Ark. Three people were reported injured in Pike County, Ark., where a mobile home was destroyed and at least three houses were damaged.

There were 44 reports of large hail, including baseball-sized precipitation in Stephens County, Okla., and 276 high-wind reports, including 81 mph gusts in Des Moines, Iowa, and 70 mph winds in Michigan, Wisconsin, Missouri and Tennessee.

In the Chicago area, severe storms felled trees, and lightning was blamed for a fire at a condominium building.

Weather.com warned that while the threat for the most severe storms and tornadoes was concentrated along a band from Oklahoma to the Ozarks, storms could cause flooding and wind and hail damage over a much wider area.

Flood watches and warnings were in effect early Friday in parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Montana, Wyoming, the Dakotas, Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan, Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida.

NBC News' Tracy Connor contributed to this report.


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