The event passed through several states in the south and north-central part of the country.
Dozens of unrelenting tornadoes tore through parts of the southern and north-central United States, killing at least 18 people.
Meteors tore through the Arkansas capital, knocked off the roof of a packed concert hall in Illinois, and smashed homes, schools, and businesses in all kinds of towns and cities.
On Saturday, people were stunned by the overnight devastation across the region.
Confirmed or suspected cyclones have destroyed buildings in at least seven states, snapped trees and leveled neighborhoods in the country of about 85 million people.
There were seven deaths in McNairy County, Tennessee, four in the small town of Wayne, Arkansas, and three in Sullivan, Indiana.
Other deaths were reported in Alabama, Illinois and Mississippi, as well as one near the Arkansas capital of Little Rock, where the mayor said more than 2,000 buildings were caught in the tornado’s path.
Shocked residents of Wynne, a town of about 8,000 people about 50 miles west of Memphis, Tennessee, awoke Saturday to the news that the high school’s roof had been ripped off and its windows blown out.
Large trees lay on the ground, their stumps reduced to handholds. Broken walls, windows and roofs were found in all kinds of houses and commercial establishments.
Garbage and remnants of normal life are strewn inside the damaged houses and across the lawn: clothing, wall insulation, roofing paper, toys, splintered furniture and a van with broken windows.
“It makes me sad that my town is so badly affected,” said Heidi Jenkins, a salon owner. “Our school is gone, my church is gone. I feel sorry for all the people who lost their homes.
Rescue operations were underway, with workers using chainsaws to clear felled trees and bulldozers to move the remains of destroyed buildings. Trucks were working to restore power. Teams of volunteers gathered to plan the day.
Adamsville Mayor David Lechner said seven people died in McNairy County, east of Memphis and on the Mississippi border.
“Most of the damage was done to houses and residential areas,” he said. He said that while everyone seemed to be accounted for, there were teams to go door-to-door to confirm.
In Belvidere, Illinois, one person was killed and 28 others were seriously injured when the roof of the Apollo Theater collapsed during a tornado, authorities said. The accident happened during a heavy metal concert in the city, about 70 miles (110 kilometers) northwest of Chicago.
Police said emergency calls started coming in from the theater just before 8:00 p.m. The venue’s Facebook page said bands scheduled to perform include Morbid Angel, Crypta, Skeletal Remains and Withdrawal.
Belvidere Fire Chief Shawn Schadle said 260 people were in the room at the time. He said emergency crews rescued one person from an elevator and had to deal with downed power lines in front of the theater.
Belvidere Police Chief Shane Woody said the footage taken after the roof collapsed was “chaos, absolute chaos.”
View from Little Rock Baptist a few minutes ago! * Video 1 by Crystal Benton from the 7th floor of the Medical Towers. #arwx @NWSlittleRock @KATVToddYak @KATV James pic.twitter.com/zX2xHoSMvz
— Sean (@_spcanady) March 31, 2023
The storms also killed three people in Sullivan County, Indiana, about 150 kilometers southwest of Indianapolis, near the state line with Illinois, local emergency management director Jim Birdle said.
Sullivan Mayor Clint Lamb told a news conference that an area south of the county seat, home to about 4,000 people, was “mainly unrecognizable at this point” and that many people had been pulled from the rubble overnight.
According to reports, up to 12 people have been injured.
In Little Rock, at least one person was killed and more than 20 others were injured, some seriously, officials said.
Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott said 2,100 homes and businesses were in the path of the tornado, but there was no estimate of how many were damaged.
Little Rock resident Nikki Scott took shelter in the bathroom after her husband called to warn her of a tornado. He could hear glass breaking, and as he left, he discovered that his house was one of the few on his street without a single tree.
BREAKING: A Little Rock, Arkansas medical center said it was operating at a high casualty level after a tornado hit — splitting roofs, overturning vehicles and throwing debris onto roadsides. https://t.co/lo7xGQkdXz pic.twitter.com/B4BnMkmkpa
—CBS News (@CBSNews) March 31, 2023
A suspected tornado killed a woman in Madison County, Alabama, County Sheriff Mac McCutcheon said.
In Pontotoc County in northern Mississippi, officials confirmed one death and four injuries.
The extensive storm system sparked wildfires in the southern Great Plains and blizzards in the northern part of the country.
More than 600 injuries were reported in Little Rock, Arkansas after a massive tornado hit the city on Friday afternoon, March 31, 2023. pic.twitter.com/K5gTFiPFA4
— Radio Dinamica E 🇪🇨 (@RadioDinamicaE) April 1, 2023
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