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.
In the Great Lakes, South and South East, dozens more residents were injured, over 350,000 households remained without power Saturday; and swaths of homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed. 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. 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.”
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.”
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.”
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. Photos showed torn fences, flipped cars, shredded roofs and a damaged high school.
Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed an emergency declaration Friday.
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.
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: Dima Amro and Lucas Finton, Memphis Commercial Appeal; The Associated Press