A deadly storm system swept across the Midwest on Friday, spawning ferocious tornadoes in Arkansas and Indiana, collapsing a roof at a packed concert hall in Illinois and putting millions of people under tornado watch from Texas to Michigan.
In Arkansas, the governor declared a state of emergency Friday afternoon after authorities said one person was killed in North Little Rock and two in Wynne, about 100 miles to the east, in separate tornadoes.
Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. said at least 30 people were hospitalized there and more than 2,000 homes were damaged. The storm caused extensive damage to businesses and apartment complexes, local police saying.
In Wynne, Mayor Jennifer Hobbs told CNN that the people had been “cut off half for damages from east to west.” The precise extent of the damage was not immediately clear, and a police department dispatcher declined to comment early Saturday morning. A secondary school in the city had been Opened for people seeking shelter and food.
In northwestern Illinois, one person died and 28 others were hospitalized Friday night after the roof collapsed at a theater in Belvidere with 260 people inside, Fire Chief Shawn Schadle said. told reporters at the scene. He said five people suffered serious injuries.
Pictures posted on social media appeared to show customers at the venue, the Apollo Theatertrying to find people under the rubble.
One of the bands on the cartel, Morbid Angel, said in a Facebook post that the band members were still sheltering in place. The National Weather Service reported “possible tornado damagein Belvidere.
About 200 miles to the south, in the town of Sherman, Illinois, more than a dozen homes sustained significant damage, Mayor Trevor J. Clatfelter said by phone Friday night. The storm, he said, had also caused major gas leaks, power outages and downed power lines throughout the town.
About 150 miles east of Sherman, in Sullivan Country, Indiana, two people were also killed after a tornado touched down, according to Sgt. Matt Ames with the Indiana State Police.
“We have a very dangerous situation right now,” he had said in an earlier interview with local news, adding that the local Veterans of Foreign Wars building “had completely disappeared.”
Images posted to social media by the VFW chapter showed a vandalized structure stripped of its roof. “Please pray for our community and be patient as we get through this tragedy,” the post read.
In Covington, Tennessee, six patients were hospitalized after a tornado ripped through the city, Kimberly Alexander, a spokeswoman for Baptist Memorial Hospital, said by phone Friday night. In Facebookthe Covington Police Department described the town as “impassable”.
In addition to Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, and Tennessee, tornadoes were also reported to the National Metereological Service through Wisconsin, Iowa, and Mississippi.
Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders said officials were on alert as the death toll rose. “We’re hopeful that it won’t, but I think given the nature and volatility of the situation, we’re certainly preparing for it,” she said at a news conference on Friday night.
Little Rock mayor Scott said at a news conference Friday night that more than 30 people had been hospitalized in the city. Many residents had also been displaced, he added.
In an interview, Scott said that at least 2,100 homes had been destroyed by the tornado and that it was too early to tell how much the damage would cost.
“I suspect we’ll be working on the damage for a week, if not longer,” Scott said.
In addition to the tornado emergency for parts of Little Rock, forecasters also declared an emergency for nearby parts of Sherwood and Jacksonville, Ark. More than 100,000 customers in Illinois and 65,000 in Arkansas were without power as of Friday night. according to PowerOutage.uswhich aggregates data from utility companies across the country.
Baptist Health medical centers in Little Rock and North Little Rock were already treating a total of 21 patients, five of whom were in critical condition, Cara Wade, a spokeswoman, said late Friday. The two hospitals anticipated a surge of additional patients.
Joshua Cook, a spokesman for CHI St. Vincent Infirmary, said the hospital’s emergency department was seeing a “high volume of people with injuries” but did not know their severity.
Leslie Taylor, a spokeswoman for the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, said at least three trauma patients had been taken to the hospital.
In Indian Hills, a middle-class neighborhood in North Little Rock, about a dozen homes appear to have been damaged, including the home of 95-year-old Mildred Loy, who said she was nearly crushed when a tree fell through her ceiling.
Ms. Loy said her caretaker lifted her off the sofa and into the hallway, where she climbed on top of Ms. Loy to protect her. “As she was laying down, we heard a boom,” Ella Loy said. “She crashed right where I was sitting.”
Meteorologists from the National Weather Service office in Little Rock had to relocate to a tornado shelter Friday afternoon as it became clear their office was in the path of the tornado. The Memphis Weather Service office planned to issue warnings and monitor the weather on his behalf, said Desiree Meadows, a meteorologist in Memphis.
Stephanie Carruthers, manager of Trio’s restaurant at the Pavilion in the Park shopping center in Little Rock, said about 25 employees and customers weathered the storm safely in the kitchen.
“It happened so fast,” Carruthers said. “She started to rain really hard, so we all ran to the kitchen. I turned around and the front doors exploded.”
Officials with fire departments in the Little Rock area said search-and-rescue crews were on the ground, checking homes door-to-door for injured residents.
“Right now there don’t appear to be many,” said Capt. Dustin Free, a spokesman for the North Little Rock Fire Department. But, he added, the situation was still very fluid.
Images posted on social media appeared to show a big tornado landing in Sigourney, a town of about 2,000 people about 70 miles southwest of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Other images from the region appeared to show vandalized buildings and overturned cars.
Manny Gálvez, a resident of Coralville, a city about 20 miles south of Cedar Rapids, said he had taken refuge in his basement shortly before 5 p.m. about 40 minutes later to find nearby homes vandalized and trucks overturned.
The storms could affect parts of Mississippi that were devastated last week by tornadoes that killed at least 26 people.
President Biden on Friday visited Rolling Fork, the Mississippi community hardest hit by tornadoes last week. The tornadoes killed 13 people and destroyed homes and businesses in Rolling Fork and surrounding Sharkey County.
The report was contributed by Roberto Chiarito, amanda holpuch, derrick bryson taylor, John Keefe, Euan District and Tim Wallace