Three people died, at least 24 were injured and 100 homes were damaged last night when a tornado tore through Mena, Ark., the Associated Press reports.

The twister touched down about 7:30 p.m. local time (8:30 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time) in the tiny town of 5,000 in the western part of the state near the Oklahoma border. As the sky turned green, "Me and the dog ran to the bathroom when we saw it on the TV," Rick Lanman, manager of the Mena Airport, told the AP. "It was here in less than a minute."

Tornados are rotating columns of air that reach from thunderstorms to the ground, with wind speeds up to 250 miles per hour, according to the National Weather Service. The funnel clouds cause on average 70 deaths and 1,500 injuries each year in the U.S.

VORTEX2, a program between government, academic and nonprofit scientists beginning next month, is designed to up scientists’ understanding of why the twisters form and improve their predictive capabilities.

Check out why green skies are associated with tornados and why twisters tend to strike in lightly populated areas.

Image of 1999 Oklahoma tornado/OAR/ERL/National Severe Storms Laboratory via Wikimedia Commons