Death toll reaches 21 as tornadoes rip through the Midwest and South of US

Residents evacuate their neighbourhood after a large tornado damaged hundreds of homes in Little Rock, Arkansas. (Photo: Benjamin Krain/Getty images)

At least 21 people have died, and dozens more have been injured due to storms and tornadoes ravaging towns and cities throughout the South and Midwest of the United States.

As part of a massive storm system that brought wildfires to the southern plains states and blizzard conditions to the upper Midwest, multiple tornadoes touched down in at least eight states on Friday evening, destroying houses and businesses and shattering trees.

As the storms engulfed a region containing around 85 million people, tens of thousands lost electricity.

There were seven fatalities in Tennessee, five in adjacent Arkansas, and four in Illinois. More deaths were recorded in Indiana, Alabama, and Mississippi.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the governor of Arkansas, issued a state of emergency and activated 100 troops of the National Guard to assist local police.

Four of the deaths in Arkansas were recorded in Wynne, a town of approximately 8,000 residents. Saturday morning, village residents awoke to see the high school's roof destroyed and its windows blasted out. Massive trees lay on the ground, their stumps reduced to tiny stubs. Walls, windows, and ceilings of homes and businesses were shattered.

Garments, insulation, roofing paper, toys, splintered furniture, and a pickup truck with shattered windows littered the interiors, lawns of demolished homes, and remnants of everyday life.

Ashley Macmillan told The Associated Press that she, her husband, their children, and their dogs gathered in a small bathroom during a tornado, "praying and saying goodbye to each other because we thought we were dead" A fallen tree severely damaged the family's home, but no one was injured.

"We could feel the house trembling, hear tremendous bangs, and hear crockery banging. "Then everything became tranquil," she said.

The recovery process had already begun, with workers using chainsaws to cut down trees and bulldozers to remove debris from destroyed structures. Power was restored by utility vehicles.

Authorities said that at least one person was killed and more than two dozen were injured, some gravely, in the Little Rock region of Arkansas.

Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott stated that approximately 2,100 homes and businesses were in the tornado's path, but no damage assessment had been conducted.

Don Nichols, the manager of a piano store in Little Rock, stated that he sought shelter beneath the steps of his business as the tornado struck.

"There was minimal damage to our store. "Only one window and some ceiling tiles were destroyed," he told Al Jazeera. "But, the restaurant next door is closed. The walls were physically removed."

At least seven individuals were killed in McNairy County, east of Memphis and along the Mississippi border, according to David Leckner, the mayor of Adamsville.

"The majority of the damage has been done to homes and residential areas," Leckner said, adding that although it appeared like everyone was accounted for, crews were going door to door, to be specific.

'Everything Crashes Down'

At Belvidere, Illinois, a portion of the Apollo Theatre's ceiling fell during a heavy metal concert attended by approximately 260 people.

"The lights go out, and a commotion is heard. Jessica Hernandez, who was inside the theatre on Friday, told Reuters in an interview, "Everything collapses." 18-year-old Hernandez stated that her friends convinced her to attend the performance.

Some concertgoers rescued a 50-year-old guy from the debris, but he was already deceased when emergency personnel arrived. According to officials, forty additional people were injured, including two with life-threatening injuries.

Gabrielle Lewellyn, a concertgoer, told WTVO-TV, "They dragged someone out of the rubble, and I sat with him and held his hand and told him, 'It's going to be okay.' I didn't know what else to do."

Workers worked Saturday to clean up the area around the Apollo, using forklifts to remove loose bricks. The business owners scooped up fragments of glass and covered the broken windows.

In Crawford County, Illinois, an additional three people were killed, and eight more were injured when a tornado struck near New Hebron, said county board chairman Bill Burke.

Sheriff Bill Rutan stated that sixty to one hundred families were displaced.

Rutan stated during a news conference, "We've had emergency crews digging people out of their basements because the house collapsed on top of them, but luckily they had that safe space to go to."

Three more individuals perished in Sullivan County, Indiana, near the Illinois border, around 150 kilometres (95 miles) southwest of Indianapolis. According to officials, the impacted districts have declared a state of emergency.

Sullivan's mayor, Clint Lamb, told reporters that a roughly 4,000-person area south of the county seat is "basically unrecognizable" and that several individuals were recovered overnight from the wreckage.

There were reports of up to twelve people being hurt, he said, as rescue crews scoured through affected locations.

Mac McCutcheon, a county officer in northern Alabama's Madison County, reported that a second probable tornado killed a woman. And in Pontotoc County in north Mississippi, officials verified one death and four injuries.

Bill Bunting, chief of prediction operations at the Storm Prediction Center, stated that determining the number of tornadoes could take days. He added that there were hundreds of reports of colossal hail and damaging winds.

"This is a hectic day," he said. Nonetheless, this is not unprecedented.

Saturday at noon, more than 530,000 households and businesses in the affected area were without power, including more than 200,000 in Ohio, according to

The expansive storm system also brought flames to the southern Plains, with the Oklahoma state forest service reporting over 100 new ones on Friday.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health reports that at least 32 persons were hurt in flames. More than forty residences were reportedly destroyed around the state.

In addition, the storms brought blizzard conditions to the Upper Midwest.
Tornadoes and hail threatened the Northeast, including Pennsylvania and New York portions.

President Joe Biden saw the devastation of a giant hurricane that struck the state of Mississippi a week before the violent weather.

The thunderstorm swarm released a catastrophic tornado that ravaged the town of Rolling Fork, Mississippi, destroying many of the 400 homes and killing 25 people. A fatality occurred in neighbouring Alabama.

More than 85 million people are under weather advisories on Friday as meteorologists urge millions to prepare for massive storms forming over at least 15 states in the Midwest and south of the United States.

Publish : 2023-04-02 09:08:00

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