State of emergency declared in Arkansas after tornado rips through | US news

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 city’s main trauma center said it was expecting at least 15 to 20 patients. The city’s mayor, Frank Scott Jr, tweeted that he was aware of “24 people who have been hospitalized at Little Rock hospitals” but that there were no reported fatalities yet, and that property damage was “extensive”.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the mayor of Arkansas, declared a state of emergency and activated the state’s national guard to help with the response amid reports of “widespread damage” in the central part of the state.

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.

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, and nearly 70,000 customers in Arkansas lost power, according to

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.

Outside a Little Rock Guitar Center, singer and songwriter Red Padilla told the Associated Press that he and five bandmates sheltered inside the store for around 15 minutes with over a dozen others while the tornado passed. The power went out and they used the flashlights on their phones to see.

“It was real tense,” Padilla said.

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Medical Center in Little Rock was operating at a mass casualty level, spokesperson Leslie Taylor said. Several people had already been transported to the medical center, but an exact count was not immediately available.

Mark Hulsey, a special projects manager for Pulaski county, which includes Little Rock, said at least one person was in critical condition.

Elsewhere on Friday, two more confirmed twisters touched down 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.

Joe Biden spoke on Friday in Rolling Fork, Mississippi, where a devastating tornado killed more than 20 people.Pin
Joe Biden spoke on Friday in Rolling Fork, Mississippi, where a tornado killed more than 20 people. Photograph: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

The potent storms brewing over at least 15 states 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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