A Kentucky reporter confessed he ‘truly believed I was going to die’ after one of the 65 tornados to have ripped across the midwest and south Friday tossed his truck off the road.
A monster storm system tore through seven states on Friday, spawning deadly weather including tornadoes that shredded homes and shopping centers in Arkansas, collapsed a theater roof during a heavy metal concert in Illinois and made a fatal sweep into rural Indiana.
Journalist Nick Sortor posted photos showing his face bloodied and his truck totaled after one of the twisters blew through Tennessee Friday.
‘I truly believed I was going to die at the moment my car was picked up and tossed off the road by this massive tornado in Tennessee,’ he tweeted. ‘Thanks so much again for all your support.’
The severe weather could continue Saturday, with several cities in Alabama and Georgia still under a tornado watch through 8 a.m. central time.
Journalist Nick Sortor (pictured) posted photos showing his face bloodied and his truck totaled after one of the twisters blew through Tennessee Friday
Over 55 million Americans are living under severe weather risks in the Ohio Valley, the Northeast, including New York City and Philadelphia, and parts of the Southeast, according the Storm Prediction Center.
Southeastern Indiana, western Ohio and northern Kentucky were still under tornado watches on Saturday through 5 a.m. ET, according to the Storm Prediction Center.
The area, which includes the cities of Dayton and Cincinnati, was under a tornado watch that warned of wind gusts up to 70 mph along with large hail.
The storm caused three deaths in Sullivan County, Indiana, Emergency Management Director Jim Pirtle said in an email to The Associated Press early Saturday.
The storm damaged homes and some residents were missing in the county seat of Sullivan, located near the Illinois state line about 95 miles southwest of Indianapolis.
At least one person was killed and more than two dozen were hurt, some critically, in the Little Rock area, authorities said.
The town of Wynne in northeastern Arkansas was also devastated, and officials reported two dead there, along with destroyed homes and people trapped in the debris.
Authorities said a theater roof collapsed during a tornado in Belvidere, Illinois, killing one person and injuring 28, five of them severely.
‘I truly believed I was going to die at the moment my car was picked up and tossed off the road by this massive tornado in Tennessee,’ Sortor tweeted, captioning this photo of his vehicle. ‘Thanks so much again for all your support’
A Kentucky reporter confessed he ‘truly believed I was going to die’ after one of the 65 tornados to have ripped across the midwest and south Friday tossed his truck off the road
The Belvidere Police Department said the collapse occurred as a heavy storm rolled through the area and that calls began coming from the theater at 7:48 p.m.
It said that an initial assessment was that a tornado had caused the damage.
The collapse occurred at the Apollo Theatre during a heavy metal concert in the town located about 70 miles northwest of Chicago.
Belvidere Fire Department Chief Shawn Schadle said 260 people were in the venue.
He said first responders also rescued someone from an elevator and had to grapple with downed power lines outside the theater.
Authorities work the scene at the Apollo Theatre after a severe spring storm caused damage and injuries during a concert in Illinois
Fire chief Shawn Schadle told reporters 28 people were taken to hospital with five in a serious condition
Belvidere Police Chief Shane Woody described the scene after the collapse as ‘chaos, absolute chaos.’
Gabrielle Lewellyn had just entered the theater when a portion of the ceiling collapsed.
‘I was there within a minute before it came down,’ she told WTVO-TV. ‘The winds, when I was walking up to the building, it went like from zero to a thousand within five seconds.’
Some people rushed to lift the collapsed portion of the ceiling and pull people out of the rubble, said Lewellyn, who wasn´t hurt.
‘They dragged someone out from the rubble and I sat with him and I held his hand and I was (telling him) `It´s going to be OK.´ I didn´t really know much else what to do.’
There were more confirmed twisters in Iowa and wind-whipped grass fires blazed in Oklahoma, as the storm system threatened a broad swath of the country home to some 85 million people.
Dramatic scenes saw cars flipped over, roofs smashed and trees toppled across the South and Midwest while tens of thousands were left without power in Arkansas and Missouri.
The Apollo Theatre in Belvidere, Illinois, saw its roof cave in at around 7.55pm local time when 260 people were inside. The concert-goers had gathered to see the heavy metal band Morbid Angel.
Fire chief Shawn Schadle told reporters 28 people were taken to hospital with five in serious condition.
One witness uploaded a video of the disturbing aftermath on Facebook.
‘I was one of the first ones on the scene and I just started praying & crying,’ Johnny Garner wrote on Facebook.
‘So many people being carried away it didn’t look real.’
In Covington, Tennessee, five people were being treated in hospital after it was also hit by a twister.
Homes in West Little Rock suffered major damage after being pummeled by the tornado
Little remains of the neighborhood after powerful storm left a trail of destruction
Entire neighborhoods were flattened by the destructive storms
The Covington Police Department shared photos of roads blocked by downed power poles and trees toppled in front of homes.
The force said the city was ‘impassable’ and urged residents to stay off the roads due to hazards and to allow emergency crews to pass through to critical areas.
Earlier in the night several flights at Chicago O’Hare International Airport were also delayed or cancelled as passengers were told to take shelter due to what it described as ‘severe weather.’
Preliminary reports estimate that 16 tornadoes occurred in Illinois, 12 in Arkansas, eight in Iowa, three in Wisconsin, two in Mississippi and two in Tennessee.
The Midwest can expect a little reprieve this weekend as the storms appear to be moving east, according to reports by the Weather Channel.
The service said thunderstorms would be the main concern on Saturday but ‘a tornado or two cannot be ruled out in the Southeast.’
A monster tornado has ripped apart Arkansas capital Little Rock just a week after more than two dozen deadly twisters tore through Mississippi and parts of Alabama killing at least 26
A second tornado was spotted forming in Des Moines, Iowa
The twisters have splintered homes and flattened entire neighborhoods, overturned vehicles and tossed trees and debris onto roads as people raced for shelter.
Roofs and walls were ripped away from many buildings, while trees were uprooted, and vehicles flipped over.
The destructive weather came as President Joe Biden toured the aftermath of a deadly tornado that struck in Mississippi one week ago and promised the government would help the area recover.
The Little Rock tornado tore first through neighborhoods in the western part of the city and shredded a small shopping center that included a Kroger grocery store.
It then crossed the Arkansas River into North Little Rock and surrounding cities, where widespread damage was reported to homes, businesses and vehicles.
In the evening, officials in Pulaski County announced a confirmed fatality in North Little Rock but did not immediately give details.
Baptist Health Medical Center-Little Rock officials told KATV in the afternoon that 21 people had checked in there with tornado-caused injuries, including five in critical condition.
Mayor Frank Scott Jr., who announced that he was requesting assistance from the National Guard, tweeted in the evening that property damage was extensive and ‘we are still responding.’
Telegraph poles and powerlines came down under the destructive power of the tornado
Debris littered the streets of the Arkansas capital following the storms on Friday afternoon
Trees that had stood for generations were felled by Friday’s storm
Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders activated 100 members of the Arkansas National Guard to help local authorities respond to the damage throughout the state.
In Little Rock, resident Niki Scott took cover in the bathroom after her husband called to say a tornado was headed her way.
She could hear glass shattering as the tornado roared past, and emerged afterward to find that her house was one of the few on her street that didn´t have a tree fall on it.
‘It´s just like everyone says. It got really quiet, then it got really loud,’ Scott said afterward, as chainsaws roared and sirens blared in the area.
At Clinton National Airport, passengers and workers sheltered temporarily in bathrooms.
‘Praying for all those who were and remain in the path of this storm,’ Sanders, who declared a state of emergency, said on Twitter.
About 50 miles west of Memphis, Tennessee, the small city of Wynne, Arkansas, saw widespread tornado damage, Sanders confirmed.
St. Francis County Coroner Miles J. Kimble told the AP by phone Friday night that he was assisting the Cross County coroner in Wynne and that two people died there in the tornado.
Branches are seen strewn all over the place, while part of the wall from a home came away
Emergency services were quickly on scene. It is hard to know where to begin
The governor at a briefing with Little Rock officials Friday night said it was possible the number of deaths could rise.
City Councilmember Lisa Powell Carter told AP that the town Wynne was without power and roads were full of debris.
‘I´m in a panic trying to get home, but we can´t get home,’ she said. ‘Wynne is so demolished. … There´s houses destroyed, trees down on streets.’
The unrelenting tornadoes continued spawning and touching down in the area into the night.
The police department in Covington, Tennessee, said on Facebook that the west Tennessee city was impassable after power lines and trees fell on roads when the storm passed through Friday evening.
Authorities in Tipton County, north of Memphis, said a tornado appeared to have touched down near the middle school in Covington and in other locations in the rural county.
Tipton County Sheriff Shannon Beasley said on Facebook that homes and structures were severely damaged.
Tornadoes moved through parts of eastern Iowa, with sporadic damage.
Residents could be seen dealing with the aftermath on Friday afternoon
The entire side of one home appeared to have completely fallen away
Powerlines and trees came down across the area as the storms left a trail of destruction
One tornado veered just west of Iowa City, home to the University of Iowa. Video from KCRG-TV showed toppled power poles and roofs ripped off an apartment building in the suburb of Coralville and significantly damaged homes in the city of Hills.
Nearly 90,000 customers in Arkansas lost power, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks outages.
In neighboring Oklahoma, wind gusts of up to 60 mph (96 kph) fueled fast-moving grass fires. People were urged to evacuate homes in far northeast Oklahoma City, and troopers shut down portions of Interstate 35.
In Illinois, Ben Wagner, chief radar operator for the Woodford County Emergency Management Agency, said hail broke windows on cars and buildings in the area of Roanoke, northeast of Peoria.
More than 109,000 customers had lost power in the state as of Friday night.
More outages were reported in Iowa, Missouri, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Indiana and Texas.
Fire crews battled several blazes near El Dorado, Kansas, and some residents were asked to evacuate, including about 250 elementary school children who were relocated to a high school.
At Chicago´s O´Hare International Airport, a traffic management program was put into effect that caused arriving planes to be delayed by nearly two hours on average, WFLD-TV reported.
The interior of store is damaged after a severe storm swept through Little Rock on Friday
A car was seen upturned in a Kroger parking lot after severe storm swept through Little Rock
Emergency personnel checked people in a parking lot after severe storm swept through
A building is damaged and trees are down after the severe storm
The National Weather Service´s Storm Prediction Center had forecast an unusually large outbreak of thunderstorms with the potential to cause hail, damaging wind gusts and strong tornadoes that could move for long distances over the ground.
Such ‘intense supercell thunderstorms ‘ are only expected to become more common, especially in Southern states, as temperatures rise around the world.
The weather service is forecasting another batch of intense storms next Tuesday in the same general area as last week.