LITTLE ROCK (USA) , April 1 (AP) — A massive storm system swept through the South and Midwest on Friday, spawning deadly tornadoes that destroyed homes and shopping centers in Arkansas and slashed across Illinois. The roof of a theater was destroyed during a heavy metal concert.
In the Little Rock area, at least one person was killed and more than 20 people were injured, some seriously, authorities said.
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The town of Wayne in northeastern Arkansas was also damaged, where officials reported two deaths, along with destroyed homes and people trapped in the rubble.
A tornado ripped through Belvidere, Illinois, on Friday night when the roof of a theater collapsed and injuries were reported, authorities said.
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One person was killed and 28 injured when the roof of a theater collapsed during a tornado in Belvidere, Illinois, authorities said.
The Belvedere Police Department said the collapse occurred when a storm was sweeping through the area, with calls from the theater beginning at 7:48 p.m. It said initial assessments were that a tornado had caused damage.
The Apollo Theater collapsed during a heavy metal concert in the town about 70 miles (113 kilometers) northwest of Chicago.
Belvidere Fire Chief Shawn Schadle said there were 260 people at the scene. Emergency crews also rescued a person from an elevator and had to contend with downed power lines outside the theater, he said.
Belvidere Police Chief Shane Woody described the scene after the collapse as “chaos, absolute chaos”.
There were more confirmed tornadoes in Iowa, a windswept meadow fire in Oklahoma, and a storm system threatening swaths of the country with a population of about 85 million.
The damaging weather comes a week after President Biden toured the devastated area after a deadly tornado hit Mississippi and promised the administration would help the region recover.
The Little Rock tornado first swept through the city’s western neighborhood, destroying a small shopping center that included a Kroger grocery store. It then crossed the Arkansas River into North Little Rock and surrounding cities, where extensive damage to homes, businesses and vehicles was reported.
In the evening, Pulaski County officials announced the confirmed death in North Little Rock, but did not immediately provide details.
Baptist Health Medical Center – Little Rock officials told KATV in the afternoon that 21 people were injured there due to the tornado, five of them in critical condition.
Mayor Frank Scott Jr., who announced the request for National Guard assistance, tweeted late in the evening that property damage had been extensive and “we’re still responding.”
Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders mobilized 100 members of the Arkansas National Guard to help local authorities respond to the devastation across the state.
In Little Rock, resident Niki Scott hid in the bathroom after her husband called to say a tornado was heading her way. She could hear glass shattering as the tornado whizzed by, and she came out to find her house was one of the few on her street that didn’t have a tree falling on it.
“Like everyone said. It got really quiet and then it got really loud,” Scott said afterward, as chainsaws roared and sirens went off in the area.
Outside the Guitar Center, five people were caught on video pointing their phones at the swirling sky. “Uh, no, that’s a real tornado, y’all.
That’s how it came about,” Red Padilla, singer-songwriter for Red and the Revelers, says in the video.
Padilla told The Associated Press that he and five band members took shelter inside the store with about a dozen other people for about 15 minutes as the tornado passed. There was a power outage, so they looked with the flashlights on their phones.
“It was really stressful,” Padilla said.
Passengers and staff temporarily hid in bathrooms at Clinton National Airport.
“Prayers for all who were and are still in the path of this storm,” Sanders, who declared a state of emergency, tweeted. “Arkansans must remain weather aware as the storm continues to hit.”
Saunders confirmed “extensive damage” from the tornado in the small town of Wayne, Arkansas, about 50 miles west of Memphis, Tennessee.
St. Francis County Coroner Miles J. Kimble told The Associated Press by phone Friday night that he was assisting the Cross County Coroner in Wayne, where two people died in the tornado.
He said no other information was immediately available as officials worked to notify families.
Death was “difficult to see,” he said.
During a briefing with Little Rock officials Friday night, the governor said the death toll could rise.
“We hope it doesn’t, but I think we’re preparing for it to happen, given the nature and fluidity of the situation,” she said.
City Councilman Lisa Powell Carter told The Associated Press that the town of Wayne was without power and that roads were littered with debris.
“I was terrified to go home, but we couldn’t go home,” she said. “Wayne is so broken. … Houses are destroyed, trees are down on the street.”
City officials imposed a curfew from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Relentless tornadoes continued to spawn and descend into the night in the region.
The police department in Covington, Tennessee said on Facebook that power lines and trees fell on roads as the storm passed Friday night, making the western Tennessee city impassable. Authorities in Tipton County, north of Memphis, said the tornado appeared to have struck near the middle school in Covington and elsewhere in the county’s rural countryside.
There was extensive damage to homes and buildings, Tipton County Sheriff Shannon Beasley said on Facebook. Downed trees and power lines blocked several roads.
The tornado moved through parts of eastern Iowa, causing sporadic damage to buildings. Images showed at least one barn that had been leveled and some homes with their roofs and siding ripped off.
A tornado veered west of Iowa City, home to the University of Iowa, which canceled a viewing party for the women’s basketball Final Four game at its on-campus gym.
Footage from KCRG-TV showed collapsed utility poles and toppled roofs from an apartment building in the suburb of Coralville and severe damage to homes in the Hills.
Nearly 90,000 customers in Arkansas were without power, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks outages.
In neighboring Oklahoma, wind gusts of up to 60 mph fueled fast-moving grass fires. People were urged to evacuate their homes northeast of Oklahoma City, and police closed portions of Interstate 35.
In Illinois, Ben Wagner, lead radar operator for the Woodford County Emergency Management Agency, said hail broke windows of cars and buildings in the Roanoke area northeast of Peoria.
As of Friday evening, more than 109,000 customers in the state were without power.
Iowa, Missouri, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Indiana and Texas reported more outages.
Firefighters were battling multiple blazes near El Dorado, Kansas, and some residents were ordered to evacuate, including about 250 elementary school students who were transferred to a high school.
Chicago O’Hare International Airport implemented a traffic management plan that caused arriving planes to be delayed by an average of nearly two hours, WFLD-TV reported.
The National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center predicted an unusually large thunderstorm outbreak could lead to hail, damaging wind gusts and powerful tornadoes that could travel great distances over the ground.
As global temperatures rise, such “intense supercell thunderstorms” are only expected to become more common, especially in the southern states.
Meteorologists said conditions on Friday were similar to those seen a week ago when a devastating tornado killed at least 21 people and damaged about 2,000 homes in Mississippi.
Casualties were particularly high in Sharkey County in western Mississippi, with 3,700 residents, where 13 people were killed.
Winds of up to 200 mph (322 km/h) blew through the rural town of Rolling Fork, leveling homes, overturning cars and collapsing the town’s water tower.
The dangerous conditions are due to strong southerly winds transporting large amounts of moisture from the northern Gulf of Mexico, where they will interact with the strengthening storm system.
The weather service is predicting another batch of severe storms next Tuesday in the same general area as last week. Accuweather meteorologist Brendan Buckingham said earlier this week that at least the first 10 days of April will be tough. (Associated Press)
(This is an unedited and auto-generated story from a Syndicated News feed, the content body may not have been modified or edited by LatestLY staff)