The death toll rose to 21 people Saturday after confirmed or suspected tornadoes in at least eight states tore through the South and Midwest, leaving residents to pick up the pieces as more severe weather loomed.
U.S. power outages spanned a huge swath of the nation from Arkansas to New York and spiked to over 1 million customers on Saturday afternoon, according to poweroutage.us. The widespread outages come as bad weather moved toward the Northeast and parts Midwest and South recovered from destruction that began on Friday.
The storms left a path of damage across states including Arkansas, Alabama, Indiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Iowa.
Meanwhile, the Ohio Valley, Northeast and mid-Atlantic braced for strong winds and severe thunderstorms, the National Weather Service forecasted. Isolated hail, scattered wind gusts up to 70 mph and a couple tornadoes are possible as severe thunderstorm watches were issued for parts of Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and New York, according to AccuWeather.
PHOTOS SHOW DESTRUCTION:Shredded homes, debris-filled streets, flipped cars
Seven people died in southern Tennessee’s McNairy County, said David Leckner, the mayor of Adamsville, Tennessee. Most damage impacted homes and residential areas, and first responders went door to door Saturday to make sure everyone was accounted for, Leckner said.
In Lewis County, 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.”
A tornado that barreled through western Little Rock killed at least one person and injured more than two dozen others, officials said. It demolished a shopping center before heading north and leaving widespread damage in its wake.
The Associated Press reports Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott said 2,100 homes and businesses were in the tornado’s path prior to an official damage assessment but no assessment has yet been done on how many were damaged. Previously AP reported that number of homes had been damaged or destroyed.
Storm chaser Brian Emfinger documented the tornado damage in Little Rock and surrounding areas. His drone footage captured homes and buildings reduced to piles of wood and rubble.
As an Arkansas native and former Little Rock resident, he knew the area well. Even with the “tremendous amount” of devastation he’s witnessed, it was tough to see, he said.
“This is the first time that (it’s been) someplace that I actually lived in, ate at the restaurants and visited,” Emfinger told USA TODAY. “I did work for some of the places that were hit.”
He saw tossed vehicles, people helping others who were injured and neighbors checking on one another. The tornado – a rare one in recent years for Little Rock – triggered gas leaks and knocked down power lines.
Niki Scott, a Little Rock resident, heard glass shatter as she took cover in a bathroom. She emerged to find her house was one of just a few on her street without a tree on it.
“It’s just like everyone says. It got really quiet, then it got really loud,” Scott said.
Four people also died in Wynne. The northeastern Arkansas town suffered heavy damage that left people trapped in debris.
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; Jeff Kolkey, Rockford Register Star; The Associated Press; The USA TODAY Network