Devastated communities across the South and Midwest were picking up the pieces and digging through the wreckage on Sunday after violent storms and tornadoes leveled neighborhoods and left at least 20 people dead.
The worst storms that swept the country on Friday resulted in more than 50 tornadoes reported in at least seven states, including Arkansas and Tennessee, where many deaths were reported. Pollution overwhelmed homes and businesses, ripped roofs off roofs, split trees, and sent vehicles flying.
More than 200 people were inside the Apollo Theater in Belvidere in northern Illinois when the roof collapsed Friday, leaving one person dead and dozens injured, the city’s fire chief said.
And in Wynne, Arkansas, the storm was so powerful that the turf of the football field was completely pulled out.
At least seven people are dead after two back-to-back storms hit the back of McNairy County, Tennessee, where authorities were searching through collapsed buildings Saturday evening.
“We had operations in the western part of the county and all the way to the east of the county,” McNairy County Sheriff Guy Buck told CNN, describing the storm cutting across the entire county.
Deaths were reported across several states, including four people who were killed in Illinois; three people who died in Sullivan, Indiana; and four in Wynne, Arkansas.
The governors of Indiana, Iowa, Illinois and Arkansas have all declared accidents or disasters in their states to provide immediate aid for affected counties.
Little Rock, Arkansas, suffered heavy damage, but no fate was reported as of Saturday afternoon. Efforts are now focused on recovering and rebuilding, Maj. Frank Scott Jr.
“It’s unbelievable that sometimes you see, literally, vehicles flying through the air, flattened structures,” the mayor said. “A lot of people wouldn’t be home, if they were, it would be a massacre,” Scott Jr. said.
The The National Weather Service reported An EF-3 tornado ripped through Pulaski and Lonoke counties in Arkansas with peak winds estimated at 165 mph. A powerful storm killed one man on North Little Rock and about four miles east of Wynne.
About 2,600 structures in Little Rock were impacted and about 50 people were sent to hospitals, according to the mayor.
In addition to leaving roads in ruins across several states, the storms also knocked out power in communities, with more than 30,000 customers affected by outages in Arkansas, according to poweroutage.us.
Hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses were also without power across the South and Northeast, including 134,000 in Pennsylvania and nearly 86,000 in Ohio, according to poweroutage.us.
The damaging weather across the South and Midwest comes after a severe tornado-fearing winter storm struck and killed at least 20 people and destroyed much of Rolling Fork, Mississippi, last week.
After a line of severe storms passed through Wynne, Arkansas, “the town was basically hit with damage from east to west,” said Mayor Jennifer Hobbs, who watched the tornado approach in the distance.
“I don’t know how to put it into words. It was devastating. It’s a lot different when it’s first time than it is when you see it hit TV in other communities,” Hobbs said.
Some houses in Wynne – home to about 8,000 residents – were completely crushed in piles of wood, others had their roofs ripped off, exposing the interior of the houses to the wreckage of the storm, drone footage was shown by CNN.
“We have many families that are completely devastated. There is no house, no property remains, Major added.
Janice Pieterick and her husband, Donald Lepczyk, were in their RV when they shot through the oncoming tornado and rushed to their daughter’s home across the yard in Hohenwald, Tennessee. WTVF he reported After a few minutes I hit the thumb.
The family rushed and huddled in the bathroom as the storm roared outside.
“We let her and the kids enter the bathroom because it’s supposed to be the safest place. And soon they were all killed, because all the doors jumped out. Double doors in the front, double doors in the back, all glass in the windows. Everything jumped out at once,” said Pieterick.
said Pieterick, and the whole house was moved. “You can literally move. Elevation. This is when we thought we were too,” he said.
In nearby McNairy County, where many deaths were reported, Sheriff Buck said the death toll could have been much higher if residents had not heeded early warnings and sought their own shelters.
“If we weren’t looking at the waste we had, our revenue could have been in the hundreds,” Buck said. “The power of mother nature is not to be underestimated,” he added.