Residents across the South and Midwest were picking up the pieces Saturday, one day after fierce tornadoes and storms ravaged multiple states, leaving seven dead, dozens injured and homes and businesses decimated.
There were at least 40 reports of tornadoes Friday across Arkansas, Iowa, Tennessee, Illinois Wisconsin and Mississippi, weather.com reported. And more than 28 million people were under a tornado watch at one point Friday, the National Weather Service said, which declared a level 5 “high risk” outlook for severe storms in some areas.
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.
Concertgoers scrambled to pull people from the rubble when parts of the roof gave in, Gabrielle Lewellyn said. “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.”
The Belvidere Police Department said an initial assessment was that a tornado caused the damage.
At least one person was killed and more than two dozen were hurt, some critically, in the Little Rock area, officials said. Two people 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 21 people had checked in there with tornado-caused injuries, including five in critical condition.
An intense storm caused three fatalities in Sullivan County, Indiana, Emergency Management Director Jim Pirtle said early Saturday. The storm damaged homes and some residents were missing in the county seat of Sullivan, about 95 miles southwest of Indianapolis.
FRIDAY WEATHER RECAP:‘Large and destructive tornado’ hits near Little Rock; tornado emergency in Arkansas
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.
“It might be our first high-risk (event) of the year,” he said.
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.
Yet another severe weather outbreak is possible the weekend of April 8-9.
“You can certainly take it to the bank here that over the next 10 days we will be way above average,” he said. “We’re going to have more casualties. … It’s just a matter of exactly where at this point.”
It’s crucial for residents to pay close attention to local meteorologists and to have a way to receive timely weather warnings, especially since many tornadoes occur at night.
The same storm system that wreaked havoc Friday will set its sights on New England and the Southeastern coast, said Jake Sojda, a meteorologist with AccuWeather.
The greater threats will be in Pennsylvania and into upstate New York and New England, with damaging winds and severe thunderstorms, he said.
In the southeast, downstate South Carolina and southern Georgia can also expect thunderstorms before the system moves on out by Sunday.
“There’s so much wind energy,” Sojda said. “This storm is very strong. There could be tornadoes though Saturday looks much less severe than Friday.”
He said Sunday “looks like a relatively quiet day across most of the U.S.”
Contributing: The Associated Press