Tornadoes slam Arkansas, shredding rooftops and tossing cars
LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas (AP) — A tornado raced through Little Rock and surrounding areas Friday, splintering homes, overturning vehicles and tossing trees and debris on roadways as people raced for shelter.
There were early reports of at least two dozen people hurt, some critically.
Another tornado hit the town of Wynne in the eastern part of the state near the Tennessee border, and officials reported widespread damage there including destroyed homes and downed trees.
There were more confirmed twisters in Iowa, damaging hail fell in Illinois and wind-whipped grass fires blazed in Oklahoma, part of a massive storm system threatening a broad swath of the country that is home to some 85 million people in the South and Midwest.
The destructive weather came as President Joe Biden toured the aftermath of a deadly tornado that struck in Mississippi a week ago and promised the government would help the area recover.
The Little Rock tornado tore first through neighbourhoods in the western part of the city and shredded a small shopping centre 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.
The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Medical Center in Little Rock was operating at a mass casualty level and preparing for up to 20 patients, spokesperson Leslie Taylor said. 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 officials were aware of 24 people who had been hospitalised in the city but no fatalities at the moment.
“Property damage is extensive and we are still responding,” he said.
Nearly 70,000 customers in Arkansas lost power, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks outages.
About 32,000 were without electricity in neigh boring Oklahoma, where wind gusts of up to 60 mph fuelled fast-moving grass fires. People were urged to evacuate homes in far northeast Oklahoma City, and troopers shut down portions of Interstate 35 near the suburb of Edmond.
More outages were reported in Kansas, Missouri and Texas.
Multiple tornadoes were reported moving through parts of eastern Iowa, with sporadic damage to homes, barns and other buildings.
The weather service is forecasting another batch of intense storms next Tuesday in the same general area as last week. At least the first 10 days of April will be rough, Accuweather meteorologist Brandon Buckingham said earlier this week.
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