Tornado Ravages Little Rock, Destroying Property and Uprooting Vehicles
A tornado struck the Little Rock area on Friday, causing disruption to homes, vehicles and the surrounding area. The trauma center at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Medical Center expected to receive at least 15-20 patients.
The twister hit the west side of Little Rock before crossing the Arkansas River into North Little Rock and surrounding cities, where more destruction was reported. It damaged a small shopping center, including a Kroger grocery store. Homes, businesses, and vehicles were all affected.
The medical center was in a state of mass casualty, according to spokesperson Leslie Taylor. Several people were transported to the hospital, though the exact number was not immediately known.
Mark Hulsey, a Pulaski County special projects manager that encompasses Little Rock, reported at least one casualty who is in a critical state.
Niki Scott, a resident of the area, sheltered in her bathroom after her husband warned her of an impending tornado. Subsequently, she heard glass shattering as it passed and examined the aftermath to discover her house was one of the few that wasn't struck by a tree. She explained, "It was just like what everyone says, it got really quiet then really loud." In the meantime, chainsaws and sirens have been heard in the area.
The Little Rock Fire Department reported extensive destruction and wreckage in the western area of the city, announcing on its Facebook page that firefighters were deploying rescue operations.
Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders has declared a state of emergency, noting there is "considerable damage" in the middle part of the state.
She took to Twitter to express support for those in the storm's path, writing, "Praying for all those who were and remain in the path of this storm. Arkansans must stay aware of the weather as storms are still passing through."
Mayor Frank Scott Jr. has requested help from the National Guard.
Scott tweeted for people to stay away from affected areas and off the roads to allow for emergency responders to do their job. A "confirmed large and destructive tornado" had put over 350,000 people in danger, according to the National Weather Service. Passengers and airport workers at Clinton National Airport were instructed to remain in bathrooms until 3:45 p.m. Footage captured showed roofs had been torn away from homes located in Little Rock and nearby Benton.
Around 70,000 people in Arkansas were without electricity on the afternoon of the day in question, as reported by poweroutage.us, a website that tracks such occurrences. Meanwhile, 32,000 customers in the nearby state of Oklahoma had to bear with the lack of power due to strong wind gusts between 50 and 60 mph, which in turn caused rapid-moving grass fires. In northeast Oklahoma City, people were asked to evacuate their homes and sections of Interstate 35 near Edmond were shut down by troopers.
Dylan Dodson, a National Weather Service meteorologist based in Des Moines, reported two confirmed tornadoes Friday afternoon in eastern Iowa, although it is too early to evaluate their size or the amount of damage they may have caused. The Poweshiek County sheriff's deputies confirmed that one touched down in an open area with no reported injuries. Dodson stated, "We have some areas which appear to have been damaged, but can't say yet how severe it is."
Millions of people are under severe weather advisories as the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center is predicting a large outbreak of thunderstorms with the potential to cause hail, damaging wind gusts and strong tornadoes. In Illinois, Ben Wagner, chief radar operator for the Woodford County Emergency Management Agency, reported that hail broke windows on cars and buildings in the area of Roanoke, northeast of Peoria. These conditions are similar to those from a week ago which caused a devastating twister that killed at least 21 people in Mississippi. People in the Midwest and southern U.S. should brace for dangerous weather as a result.
Forecasters issued tornado watches in Wisconsin, Mississippi, Memphis, Davenport, Iowa, and Quincy, Illinois and the surrounding area on Friday, expecting numerous tornadoes and declaring it a "particularly dangerous situation." This stretch of the Mississippi River is at the greatest risk for storms. The tornado watch is active until Friday evening.
On Friday afternoon, warnings had been given by the National Weather Service for many of Missouri, Arkansas and Iowa; as well as parts of Wisconsin, Texas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Mississippi. These areas are said to be exposed to intense supercell thunderstorms, a phenomenon that is foreseen to grow in the Southern states as temperatures increase around the world. Cities such as Chicago, St. Louis, Jonesboro, Des Moines, and Cedar Rapids are all in the line of danger from these storms starting from Friday afternoon.
Forecasters issued a warning for Chicago of an uncommon and considerable risk of strong winds, tornadoes and large hailstones. Northern Illinois meteorology professor and tornado expert Victor Gensini declared there would be many thunderstorms, tornadoes, treacherous winds and large hail. The University of Iowa, located in Iowa City, terminated their watch party for Friday's women's basketball Final Four game versus South Carolina due to the menacing weather.
On Friday night last week, a devastating tornado swept through Mississippi, leaving a path of destruction behind it. At least 21 people were killed and dozens more injured, while an estimated 2,000 homes were damaged or destroyed. The tornado tore through the region for over an hour, leaving many in its wake without homes.
The toll of devastation was especially high in Mississippi's Sharkey County, where 13 lives were lost in a population of just 3,700 people. Winds of up to 200 mph ripped through the farming town of Rolling Fork, with homes being completely destroyed, vehicles overturned, and even the town's water tower collapsing.
This hazardous forecast is a result of extremely powerful southerly winds bringing a vast amount of dampness from the Gulf of Mexico towards the north, where it will meet the intensifying weather system. According to Gensini, this atmospheric setup is similar to what was present on the day of the deadly storm in Mississippi.
Gov. Kristi Noem has ordered executive branch offices in certain parts of South Dakota to be closed on Friday due to icy conditions resulting from freezing rain, snow and high winds. Several counties are under blizzard or ice storm warnings.
Meteorologist Brandon Buckingham has predicted that the first ten days of April will be harsh, concerning the forecast of another wave of powerful storms next Tuesday in the same location as last week.