The weather is expected to resume this Tuesday.
The storms, believed to be dozens of tornadoes, killed at least 26 people in small towns and large cities in the southern and north-central United States, and left a trail of destruction through the Arkansas capital and collapsed rooftops. Concert Hall in Illinois.
Residents of the affected areas were surprised by the scope and scale of the damage in the area.
Confirmed or suspected tornadoes in at least eight states destroyed homes and businesses, downed trees and leveled large swaths of the country.
There were at least nine deaths in one Tennessee county, four in the small town of Wayne, Arkansas, four in Illinois and three in nearby Sullivan, Indiana.
Other deaths were reported in Alabama and Mississippi from the storms that hit the country Friday into Saturday night, and another death was reported in Little Rock, Arkansas, where the mayor said more than 2,600 properties were in the hurricane’s path.
Residents of Wynne, a town of about 8,000 people about 50 miles west of Memphis, Tennessee, woke up Saturday to news that the roof of the high school had been blown off and windows blown out.
Big trees lay on the ground. Broken walls, windows and roofs were found in all kinds of houses and commercial establishments.
Debris was strewn inside the broken houses and on the lawns: clothes, wall insulation, toys, scattered furniture and a van with broken windows.
“We said goodbye to each other because we thought we were going to die,” said Ashley MacMillan, who said her husband and their children took refuge in a small bathroom with the dogs. The tree fell and severely damaged their house, but they were unharmed.
“We felt how the house was shaking, heard loud noises, clattering of dishes. Then everything went quiet,” he said.
Already, workers were using chainsaws to move felled trees and bulldozers to move the remains of destroyed buildings. Crews fixed the power.
Nine people died in McNairy County, Tennessee, east of Memphis, said Patrick Sheehan, director of the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency.
“Most of the damage was to homes and residential areas,” Adamsville Mayor David Lechner said.
In Memphis, police spokesman Christopher Williams said in an email late Saturday that there were three believed to be weather-related deaths: two children and an adult who died when a tree fell on a home.
Tennessee officials warned Friday night that similar weather is expected Tuesday.
In Belvidere, Illinois, part of the roof of the Apollo Theater collapsed while about 260 people were inside at a heavy metal concert. A 50-year-old man was rescued from the rubble.
“I sat with him, held his hand and said, ‘Everything’s going to be okay.’ I didn’t know what else to do,” concertgoer Gabrielle Llewellyn told Wtvo-TV.
When the emergency team arrived, he was already dead. According to officials, another 40 people were injured, two of them critically.
In Crawford County, Illinois, three people were killed and eight injured after a tornado swept through the New Hebron area, County Board Chairman Bill Burke said.
Between 60 and 100 families have been displaced, Sheriff Bill Rudd said.
Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard. Sanders asked President Joe Biden on Saturday to issue a major disaster declaration to support recovery efforts with federal resources.
Another suspected tornado killed a woman in north Alabama’s Madison County, authorities said. Officials confirmed one death and four injuries in Pontotoc County in northern Mississippi.
The tornado also caused damage in eastern Iowa and broke windows in northeast Peoria, Illinois.
The storms came hours after Biden visited Rolling Fork, Mississippi, where last week’s tornado devastated parts of the city.
Clint Lamb, mayor of Sullivan, Indiana, told a news conference that an area south of the county seat of about 4,000 people was “mainly unrecognizable at this point” and that several people had been pulled from the rubble by evening. According to reports, up to 12 people have been injured.
In the Little Rock metropolitan area, at least one person was killed and more than 50 were injured, some seriously.
The National Weather Service said the tornado was an EF3 with sustained winds of 265 km/h and a landfall of up to 40 km.
A tornado is suspected to have 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.
Bill Bunting, chief of forecast operations for the Storm Prediction Center, said it could take several days to accurately determine the number of tornadoes that occurred that day.
“It’s been a very busy day,” he said. “But this is not unprecedented.”
According to the specialized portal PowerOutage.us, more than 530,000 homes and businesses were without power at noon Saturday, more than 200,000 of them in Ohio.
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