A massive tornado plowed through Little Rock, Arkansas, and surrounding areas on Friday afternoon, reducing rooftops to splinters, toppling vehicles and tossing debris on roadways as people took shelter.
The local emergency medical service are estimating that hundreds of people could be hurt, one television station, WCAV, reported. Police officers helped take people to the hospital because there weren’t enough ambulances to respond to the wounded.
The Arkansas Democrat Gazette reported that a hospital was treating at least 21 people for injuries, five of them in critical condition, according to a spokesperson for Baptist Health Medical Center.
More than 350,000 people were at risk as what the National Weather Service called a “confirmed large and destructive tornado” tore through business districts and neighborhoods in Little Rock and North Little Rock. The city’s mayor, Frank Scott Jr, told media that he had been in contact with the state’s governor, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, to ask for help from the national guard.
Passengers and airport employees at Clinton national airport in Little Rock took shelter in bathrooms. And aerial footage showed several rooftops were torn from homes in Little Rock and nearby Benton. About 70,000 homes were without power in that region late Friday afternoon, according to WCAV’s report.
Potent storms brewing over at least 15 states in the midwest and southern US on Friday prompted meteorologists to warn people to brace for tornadoes and other dangerous weather, saying they were similar to those a week earlier that unleashed a devastating twister that killed at least 21 people in Mississippi.
Joe Biden toured Mississippi on Friday, surveying the aftermath of the deadly twister which destroyed roughly 300 homes and businesses in Rolling Fork and the nearby town of Silver City leaving mounds of lumber, bricks and twisted metal. Hundreds of additional structures were badly damaged.
The president pledged that the federal government was not leaving until the area was back on its feet. In the close-knit community of Rolling Fork, Biden read aloud the names of each of the 13 residents of the small town killed in the storm after touring the wreckage. He acknowledged that the road to recovery will be long and hard, but said he was committed to helping them through it.
“We’re not just here for today,” said Biden, standing near an animal shelter and a hardware store reduced to rubble by the powerful storm as he addressed members of the devastated community. “We’re going to get it done for you. We’re going to make sure you can stay right here.”
The US is likely to see more killer tornado- and hail-spawning supercell storms like the one that devastated Rolling Fork as the world warms, according to a new study that also warns the lethal storms will edge eastward to strike more frequently in the more populous southern states, like Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee.
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