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#Tornado Outbreak Batters Arkansas; Several States In South, Midwest Face Deluge Of Severe Weather

Tornado Outbreak Batters Arkansas

A tornado outbreak caused widespread havoc Friday evening, killing four and injuring dozens as federal forecasters warned of rare twister emergencies and confirmed tornadoes across several states.

One tornado ripped through neighborhoods on the west side of Little Rock, Arkansas claiming at least one life, the Associated Press reported. It destroyed homes and apartment buildings, overturned vehicles and prompted search and rescue efforts.

There were more confirmed twisters in Iowa and wind-whipped grass fires blazed in Oklahoma, as the storm system threatened a broad swath of the country home to some 85 million people.

Tornado Outbreak Batters Arkansas

In Belvidere, Illinois, the roof of the Apollo Theater collapsed on heavy metal concertgoers as a storm swept through the area, causing multiple injuries, reported the Rockford Register Star, a USA TODAY Network property. One person died and 28 were injured, officials said late Friday. Dozens of ambulances were called to the scene as emergency responders cared for the wounded.

Tornado Outbreak Batters Arkansas

Belvidere Fire Department Chief Shawn Schadle said 260 people were in the venue at the time. He said first responders also rescued someone from an elevator and had to grapple with downed power lines outside the theater.

Belvidere Police Chief Shane Woody described the scene after the collapse as “chaos, absolute chaos.”

Gabrielle Lewellyn had just entered the theater when a portion of the ceiling collapsed.

“I was there within a minute before it came down,” she told WTVO-TV. “The winds, when I was walking up to the building, it went like from zero to a thousand within five seconds.”

Some people rushed to lift the collapsed portion of the ceiling and pull people out of the rubble, said Lewellyn, who wasn’t hurt.

“They dragged someone out from the rubble and I sat with him and I held his hand and I was (telling him) ‘It’s going to be OK.’ I didn’t really know much else what to do.”

Tornado Outbreak Batters Arkansas

Another tornado ripped through Wynne, in eastern Arkansas, killing two, trapping others in debris and causing widespread damage. More than seven tornadoes and large hail were confirmed by the weather service across Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, and Tennessee.

The destructive weather came as President Joe Biden toured the aftermath of a deadly tornado that struck in Mississippi one week ago and promised the government would help the area recover.

Friday’s storm threats continued throughout the evening, with the National Weather Service warning supercell storms were increasing the threat of tornadoes across east central Arkansas near the Mississippi and Tennessee borders. Residents were urged to take cover in basements and interior rooms away from windows.

The storms sped across the Mississippi Valley Friday just a week after another tornado outbreak killed 21 people in Mississippi, including a long-track twister that destroyed much of Rolling Fork and brought President Joe Biden to the community on Friday.

Forecasters also are warning the Mississippi Valley will face another round of severe storms and a potential tornado outbreak on Tuesday.

Tornado Outbreak Batters Arkansas

Tornado emergency in Arkansas

Dozens were injured as a tornado roared through Little Rock during one of several “tornado emergencies” Friday as the powerful storm system moved across the Mississippi River valley. A tornado emergency is issued when a severe threat to human life or catastrophic damage is imminent or ongoing.

The Little Rock Fire Department reported heavy damage and debris. The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Medical Center in Little Rock was operating at a mass casualty level and preparing for up to 20 patients, spokesperson Leslie Taylor said. Baptist Health Medical Center-Little Rock officials told KATV in the afternoon that 21 people had checked in there with tornado-caused injuries, including five in critical condition.

Mayor Frank Scott Jr. tweeted that city officials were aware of 24 who had been hospitalized, and said property damage was “extensive.”

Earlier in the afternoon, he had requested assistance from the Arkansas National Guard. Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders activated 100 members of the state’s guard to respond to damage throughout the state.

Sanders tweeted: “Significant damage has occurred in Central Arkansas….Praying for all those who were and remain in the path of this storm. Arkansans must continue to stay weather aware as storms are continuing to move through.”

The weather service issued a separate tornado emergency late Friday afternoon for the towns of Parkin and Earle in eastern Arkansas, when the tornado struck Wynne. The tornado prompted emergency responders to try to close a portion of Interstate 55 at Marion, just west of Memphis.

The tornado destroyed buildings, damaged Wynne High School, flipped cars and shredded rooftops reported the Commercial Appeal, a USA TODAY Network paper in Memphis.

Tornado Outbreak Batters Arkansas

The twisters were moving at speeds of 55 to 60 mph.

By 11:00 p.m. Eastern Time, more than 300,000 customers were out of electricity across eight states as the storms moved east with 60-70 mph winds. More than 100,000 customers were without electricity in Illinois, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks outages. The website reported outages as high as 80,000 customers in Arkansas earlier in the evening. Outages also were reported in Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Tennessee and Iowa.

Tornadoes cause damages in Iowa, Illinois and Tennessee

In Clinton County, Iowa, the Sheriff’s office asked people to stay home after “a strong storm system” moved through. The agency reported a house had collapsed on people.

In Charlotte, Iowa, a storm damaged a 10,000 gallon propane tank, with wind concerns prompting authorities to evacuate about half the town’s 400 residents, reported the Des Moines Register, part of the USA TODAY Network.

Storms also caused damage in Eastern Iowa, the Register reported, with residents working to help neighbors salvage belongings from storm-damaged homes in Hills and a shelter being set up in Coralville for people who lost homes.

In Covington, Tennessee, the city’s police department posted on Facebook that the city was “impassable,” the Commercial Appeal reported. Multiple homes and structures also were damaged in Tipton County.

Late into the evening, strong winds of 60 – 70 mph were reported across much of the region. At one point the weather service office in Memphis reported losing electricity and operating on a generator as storms continued to hammer the area.

Tornado Outbreak Batters Arkansas

Tornado surveys

Experts in weather service field offices throughout the region plan to begin tornado damage surveys early Saturday morning. They’ll start the process of determining the magnitude of the tornadoes and the time and length they were on the ground.

Early warnings

On Friday morning, an estimated 89 million people in at least 15 states – from Texas to Alabama in the South all the way up north to Wisconsin and Michigan – were warned of a “high risk” from the “explosive” storms, with a chance for violent, long-track tornadoes. It was the first time in two years the center had issued a “high risk” warning, and this time there were two.

Meanwhile, heavy snow and strong winds were produced blizzard-like conditions in South Dakota.

Tornado Outbreak Batters Arkansas



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