As fierce storms and tornadoes flattened neighborhoods and killed at least 22 people, communities across the South and Midwest were picking up the pieces and searching through the wreckage on Sunday.
A tornado outbreak that swept across the country on Friday resulted in at least 50 tornado reports in at least seven states, including Arkansas and Tennessee, where multiple deaths were confirmed. Tornadoes destroyed houses and businesses, ripped roofs off buildings, splintered trees, and flung vehicles into the air.
The roof of the Apollo Theatre in Belvidere, Illinois, fell Friday, killing one person and injuring hundreds more, according to the municipal fire chief.
The storm was so powerful in Wynne, Arkansas, that it ripped the turf off a high school football field.
In McNairy County, Tennessee, where rescue workers were sifting through collapsed buildings on Saturday night, at least seven people perished as a result of two successive bands of storms.
In response to a severe storm that swept through the whole county, McNairy County Sheriff Guy Buck told the associated press, “We had deaths on the west side of the county and to the east side of the county.”
There were reported deaths in several states, including four in Illinois, three in Sullivan, Indiana, and four in Wynne, Arkansas.
To help free up urgent assistance for affected counties, the governors of Indiana, Iowa, Illinois, and Arkansas all proclaimed emergency or disaster designations in their states.
Little Rock, Arkansas, sustained significant damage, but as of Saturday afternoon, no fatalities had been confirmed. The current focus is on recovery and reconstruction, according to Mayor Frank Scott Jr.
“It’s incredible whenever you watch vehicles flying across the air and structures being crushed,” the mayor remarked. “Many folks were not at home, and if they had been, it would have been a slaughter,” Scott Jr. told the associated press.
An EF-3 tornado with estimated peak winds of 165 mph tore over Pulaski and Lonoke counties in Arkansas, according to the National Weather Service. One person was killed in North Little Rock by the strong tornado, and four others were killed roughly 100 miles to the east in Wynne.
According to the mayor, there was damage to close to 2,600 Little Rock structures, and about 50 individuals were sent to hospitals.
Storms have not only left a path of devastation across many states, but they have also cut off power to battered communities, with over 30,000 customers in Arkansas experiencing outages, according to poweroutage.us.
Per the poweroutage.us, tens of thousands of households and businesses in the South and Northeast were also without electricity, including 134,000 in Pennsylvania and around 86,000 in Ohio.
Following a violent tornado-spawning storm that devastated the Southeast and left at least 26 people dead and much of Rolling Fork, Mississippi, destroyed just last week, the South and Midwest are now experiencing damaging weather.
“Sliced in half,” little town
Mayor Jennifer Hobbs, who was watching the twister from a distance as it neared Wynne, Arkansas, stated that after a line of severe weather passed over the town, “the town is sliced in two by damage from east to west.”
“I struggle to express it in words. It was disastrous. Seeing it firsthand is very different from watching it on television as it affects other communities, according to Hobbs.
Drone footage released to the associated press demonstrates how some homes in Wynne, which has approximately 8,000 residents, were entirely smashed into piles of wood, while others had their roofs torn off, exposing the inside of homes piled with storm debris.
“Many of the families here are in utter disarray. Have no home and no surviving possessions,” the mayor continued.
The sheriff claims that early warning of storms saved lives
Janice Pieterick and her husband Donald Lepczyk were in their RV when they received a tornado warning and hurried to her daughter’s home across the yard in Hohenwald, Tennessee, according to the associated press. Minutes later, the tornado struck.
While the storm raged outside, the family hurried into the restroom and gathered together.
“Because the bathtub is supposed to be the safest area, we forced her and the kids to get in there. And because all the doors blew out, we simply camped out. There are double doors in the front and back, as well as all glass in the windows. All of it blew out at once, according to Pieterick.
Pieterick reported that the entire home shook. It’s so real that you can feel it moving. heaving up. We believed we were going at that point, she continued.
Sheriff Buck said the death toll in neighboring McNairy County, where several fatalities have been reported, might have been considerably worse if locals had not listened to early warnings and sought out suitable shelter.
Considering the destruction we experienced, Buck claimed that if they hadn’t intervened, “our death toll may have been in the hundreds.” He continued, “The might of mother nature is something that should not be underestimated.”
Tornadoes can occur at any time of year, but they are most common in the spring and early summer months.
Tornadoes can form quickly, sometimes in just a few minutes, and can move at speeds of up to 70 miles per hour.
The most destructive tornadoes are often the ones that stay on the ground for the longest amount of time, as they have more time to cause damage.
Tornadoes can be classified as “supercell” tornadoes or “non-supercell” tornadoes. Supercell tornadoes are the most common and are associated with severe thunderstorms, while non-supercell tornadoes are less common and are typically associated with weather systems like hurricanes or cold fronts.
The United States has more tornadoes than any other country in the world, with an average of about 1,200 tornadoes per year.
Tornadoes can range in size from just a few feet to over a mile in diameter, and their paths can be several miles long.
In addition to strong winds, tornadoes can also produce hail, lightning, and heavy rainfall.
The Enhanced Fujita Scale (EF Scale) is an updated version of the original Fujita scale and is used to classify tornadoes based on both wind speed and damage.