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Tornadoes hit Arkansas, Illinois, Tennessee; At least 21 killed, dozens injured

A giant storm system tore through the South and Midwest on Friday, spawning deadly tornadoes that tore through homes and shopping centers in Arkansas and Petni A theater roof during a heavy metal concert in Illinois. In total, at least 21 weather-related deaths were reported in six states, according to the latest numbers compiled Saturday by CBS News.

Seven people were killed in McNary County, Tennessee Mayor Larry W. Smith told CBS News on Saturday. Mayor McNairy has declared a state of emergency for the county. Near Huntsville, Alabama, a 90-year-old woman died inside her home after it was destroyed by a tornado, Don Webster, a spokesman for Huntsville Emergency Medical Services, told CBS News.

The town of Wynne in northeastern Arkansas was also devastated. Four people died there, the city’s coroner told CBS News. Officials also said that there are people trapped in the debris of destroyed houses. More than two dozen were injured in the Little Rock area, some seriously, authorities said. One weather-related death was reported in North Little Rock, according to Pulaski County Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman Madeline Roberts.

Jim Pirtle, director of emergency management in Sullivan County, Indiana, told CBS News that there were three deaths.

Authorities said A theater roof collapses during a tornado in Belvidere, IllinoisA 50-year-old man was killed and about 40 others were injured, officials said at a news briefing on Saturday. The Belvedere Police Department said the collapse was caused by a strong storm moving through the area, and calls from the theater at 7:48 p.m. said there was a preliminary assessment that a tornado had caused the damage.

The Apollo Theater collapse occurred during a heavy metal concert in the city, about 70 miles northwest of Chicago.

Of the injured, two had life-threatening injuries, two had serious injuries, 18 had minor injuries and five had minor injuries, Belvedere Fire Chief Sean Schadle said Saturday.

Severe weather in Illinois

Authorities work the scene at the Apollo Theater after a severe spring storm caused damage and injuries during a concert in Belvidere, Ill., late Friday, March 31, 2023.

Matt Merton/AP

Three people have died after a residential structure collapsed in Crawford County, Illinois Emergency Management Agency Director Alicia Tate-Nadeau confirmed to CBS News.

The weather caused one death and four injuries in Pontotoc County on Friday, according to the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency.

The devastating weather came as President Biden visited Friday after a tornado hit Mississippi a week ago, killing at least 21 people. Mr. Biden promised that the government would help restore the area.

As of Saturday evening, more than 235,000 customers were without power in Ohio, according to utility tracker PowerOutage.us. More than 275,000 people were without power in Pennsylvania and another 93,000 in Tennessee, 73,000 in West Virginia and 53,000 in Kentucky.

Meanwhile, the Little Rock tornado first tore through neighborhoods in the western part of the city and destroyed a small shopping center that included a Kroger grocery store. It then crossed the Arkansas River into North Little Rock and surrounding towns, where extensive damage to homes, businesses and vehicles was reported.

Severe Weather Arkansas

A home is damaged and trees are downed by a tornado in Little Rock, Ark., Friday, March 31, 2023.

Andrew DeMillo/AP

Baptist Health Medical Center-Little Rock officials told KATV Friday that 21 people checked in there with tornado-related injuries, including five in critical condition.

Mayor Frank Scott Jr., who announced he was requesting assistance from the National Guard, tweeted Friday evening that property damage was extensive and “we are still responding.”

Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders has activated 100 members of the Arkansas National Guard to help local authorities respond to damage across the state.

In Little Rock, resident Nikki Scott took cover in the bathroom when her husband called to say a tornado was headed her way. He heard shattering glass as the tornado roared by and later emerged to find that his house was one of the few on his street that hadn’t been hit by a tree.

“It’s just like everybody says. It got really quiet, then it got really loud,” Scott said later, as chainsaws roared and sirens rang in the area.

Passengers and workers take temporary shelter in bathrooms at Clinton National Airport.

About 50 miles west of Memphis, Tennessee, the small town of Wynne, Arkansas, saw extensive tornado damage, Sanders confirmed.

Severe Weather Iowa

Homes are damaged after a tornado touched down in Coralville, Iowa, on Friday, March 31, 2023.

Ryan Foley/AP

City Council member Lisa Powell Carter told the AP that Wynn was without power and the streets were littered with debris.

“I’m in a panic trying to get home, but we can’t get home,” he said. “Wine is so broken. … There are houses destroyed, trees down the road.”

Uninterrupted tornadoes continue to sweep and touch down in the area through the night.

The police department in Covington, Tennessee, said on Facebook that the west Tennessee city was impassable after downed power lines and trees as the storm moved through Friday evening. Authorities in Tipton County, north of Memphis, said a tornado appeared to have touched down near a middle school in Covington and elsewhere 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 scattered damage.

A tornado touched down just west of Iowa City, home of the University of Iowa. KCRG-TV video showed downed power poles and roofs tearing off an apartment building in the suburb of Coralville, and homes in the city of Hills were significantly damaged.

In neighboring Oklahoma, wind gusts of up to 60 mph fueled a fast-moving grass fire. In far northeast Oklahoma City, people were urged to evacuate their homes and troopers closed parts of Interstate 35.

APTOPIX Severe Weather Arkansas

A car is overturned in a Kroger parking lot after a strong storm moved through Little Rock, Ark., Friday, March 31, 2023.

Andrew DeMillo/AP

In Illinois, hail shattered windows on cars and buildings in the Roanoke area, northeast of Peoria, said Ben Wagner, chief radar operator for the Woodford County Emergency Management Agency. More than 109,000 customers lost power in the state as of Friday night.

Fire crews battled several blazes near El Dorado, Kansas, and some residents were asked to evacuate, including about 250 elementary school children who were moved to a high school.

At Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, a traffic management program was implemented that delayed arriving planes by an average of about two hours, WFLD-TV reported.

The National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center predicted an unusually large thunderstorm outbreak that could produce hail, damaging wind gusts and powerful tornadoes that could travel 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 predicting another severe storm next Tuesday in the same general area as last week.

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