Up to 350,000 people were at risk of being in the path of the tornado when it hit Little Rock, but according to local media, relatively few were injured.
Major material damage has, however, been reported from several suburbs and television images show quantities of roofs that have been ripped off. The exact extent is said to be too early to determine.
All flights at Clinton National Airport were canceled and passengers and staff were ordered to temporarily seek shelter in restrooms and other secure areas.
Around 70,000 households were without power in the afternoon, local time. Power outages and damage after heavy storms are also reported from several other states.
In at least 15 states, meteorologists have warned of severe thunderstorms and warned of tornadoes like those that killed more than 20 people in Mississippi a week ago.
— There will be many thunderstorms, tornadoes, strong winds and hail storms, says Victor Gensini, a meteorologist in Illinois, to the AP.
This also applies to Chicago, which is otherwise rarely hit by tornadoes.
In addition, authorities in four states, from Texas to New Mexico, are warning of high fire danger with drought and hot temperatures combined with strong winds.