The death toll rose to 18 people on Saturday after tornadoes and powerful storms that started Friday tore through the South and Midwest, leaving residents to pick up the pieces as more severe weather loomed.
U.S. Power outages spiked to over 900,000 customers on Saturday afternoon, according to poweroutage.us, as bad weather moved into the Northeast and swaths of the Midwest and South recovered from Friday’s destruction. Dozens of tornadoes were reported across Arkansas, Iowa, Tennessee, Illinois, Wisconsin and Mississippi, according to National Weather Service data.
More than 28 million people were under a tornado watch at one point Friday, the National Weather Service said, which declared a rare “high risk” outlook for severe storms in some areas.
PHOTOS SHOW DESTRUCTION:Shredded homes, debris-filled streets, flipped cars
Reports of deaths, injuries and damage spanned several states:
- Alabama: Roads were closed after trees and power lines were downed in the storm, according to WAFF-TV.
- Indiana: In Indiana’s Sullivan County, an intense storm destroyed homes, razing full neighborhoods, and some residents were missing in the county seat of Sullivan, about 95 miles southwest of Indianapolis. Sullivan County commissioners signed an emergency declaration early Saturday.
- Mississippi: One person died and four others were injured in northern Mississippi’s Pontotoc County, authorities said.Photos showed downed trees, blocked roads and damaged homes, and authorities said telephone lines were temporarily down Saturday morning. This comes as President Joe Biden on Friday visited the storm-ravaged Rolling Fork, Mississippi, where a storm on March 24 killed at least 21 people.
- Tennessee: Five freight train cars overturned in Marshall county, Tennessee. Dozens of house were destroyed or damaged in central Tennessee and two people were rescued from a collapsed home, authorities said.
- Oklahoma: Wind gusts up to 54 mph also battered Oklahoma City, fanning the flames of several fires that led to widespread evacuations.
- Iowa: Multiple possible tornadoes were spotted across Iowa as storms with hail and heavy winds battered the eastern portion of the state.
FRIDAY WEATHER RECAP:‘Large and destructive tornado’ hits near Little Rock; tornado emergency in Arkansas
Seven people died in southern Tennessee’s McNairy County, said David Leckner, the mayor of Adamsville, Tennessee, a town in the county. The majority of the damage was done to homes and residential areas, and first responders were going door to door Saturday to make sure everyone was accounted for, Leckner said.
Adamsville Police Department said it was helping with cleanup.
“The damage and loss that our community suffered last night was catastrophic,” the police department said in a Facebook statement. “We send our condolences to all of those who were impacted by this event, not just in our community, but across the entire region.”
In Lewis County in Tennessee, Melissa Keller ran to her bathroom to hide from the storm in the community where she’s lived with her family for nearly 50 years. Her house was still standing Saturday but her sister’s was destroyed, she said.
“I’ve never seen nothing like this,” Keller said.
A theater roof collapsed Friday evening in Belvidere, Illinois, about 70 miles northwest of Chicago, amid an intense storm, killing one person and injuring 28.
About 260 people were attending a heavy metal concert at the Apollo Theatre when the storm struck, Belvidere Fire Department Chief Shawn Schadle said.
“Chaos, absolute chaos,” said Belvidere Police Chief Shane Woody in describing the scene.
As security personnel urged concertgoers to take shelter in the basement, many scrambled to pull people from the rubble when parts of the roof gave in.
“I was like, I’m not going to the basement. There are still people injured,” said concertgoer Hasib Neaz. “I need to get people out. Time is running out. People could die. They could suffocate in there.”
Elsewhere in central Illinois, many communities had significant property damage and knocked-down power lines. A horse stable in Sangamon County was damaged, and 32 horses were unaccounted for.
Jack Ealey of Sherman, Illinois rode out the storm on the floor of his pickup truck, which was parked in his garage. He said his house was uninhabitable and the rear of his garage was torn off.
“Last night, we were lucky we were alive,” he said. “Now, we’re trying to figure out what to do.”
At least one person was killed and more than two dozen were hurt, some critically, after a tornado hit the Little Rock area, officials said.
The Associated Press reports Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott said 2,100 homes and businesses were in the tornado’s path, but no assessment has yet been done on how many were damaged. Previously AP reported that number of homes had been damaged or destroyed.
Additionally, four people also died in Wynne in northeastern Arkansas, which suffered heavy damage that left people trapped in debris. Baptist Health Medical Center-Little Rock officials told KATV that 21 people had checked in there with tornado-caused injuries, including five in critical condition.
“It’s heart wrenching seeing Wynne destroyed like that,” said St. Francis County Coroner Miles J Kimble, who is assisting the Cross County Coroner. “The schools, families grieving, people trapped, first responders working, it’s just very difficult in my heart watching their community.”
Heidi Jenkins, a salon owner in Wynne, surveyed the damage Saturday: roofs shredded, fallen trees, belongings from toys to splintered furniture strewn on lawns.
“Our school is gone; my church is gone,” she said. “I’m sad for all the people who lost their homes.”
The Little Rock area tornado first barreled through the western part of the city, demolishing a shopping center before it headed north, leaving widespread damage in its wake.
Niki Scott, a Little Rock resident, heard glass shattering as she took cover in the bathroom. When she emerged, she saw that her house was one of just a few on her street that didn’t have a tree on it.
“It’s just like everyone says. It got really quiet, then it got really loud,” Scott said.
A similar pattern to the recent storms is expected to set up Tuesday, amplified by even greater heat and humidity, increasing the risk for severe weather, Victor Gensini, associate professor at Northern Illinois University, told USA TODAY.
If you wanted to draw a textbook severe weather configuration, “this would certainly be it,” he said. Between dry conditions to the west, and hot, wet conditions to the east, he expects to see a “pretty broad area of real estate” at risk on Tuesday afternoon and evening.
Contributing: Dima Amro and Lucas Finton, Memphis Commercial Appeal; The Associated Press