At least 26 killed as tornadoes, storms hit US Midwest and South

At least 26 people have been killed as storms and tornadoes hit towns and cities across the US South and Midwest, tearing a path through the Arkansas capital and collapsing the roof of a packed concert venue in Illinois.

Several tornadoes touched down on Friday night across at least seven states, laying waste to homes and businesses and splintering trees, as part of a sprawling storm system that brought wildfires to the southern plains states and blizzard conditions to the upper Midwest.

Tens of thousands lost power as the storms smothered a swath of the country home to some 85 million people.

The dead included seven in Tennessee’s McNairy County, four in the town of Wynne, Arkansas, and three in Sullivan, Indiana. Other deaths were reported in Alabama, Illinois, Mississippi and the Little Rock area.

Stunned residents of Wynne, a community of about 8,000 people 50 miles (80 kilometres) west of Memphis, Tennessee, woke on Saturday to find the high school’s roof shredded and its windows blown out. Huge trees lay on the ground, their stumps reduced to nubs. Broken walls, windows and roofs pocked homes and businesses.

Recovery was already under way, with workers using chainsaws to cut fallen trees and bulldozers moving material from shattered structures. Utility trucks worked to restore power.

Seven people died in McNairy County, east of Memphis, Tennessee, along the Mississippi border, said David Leckner, the mayor of Adamsville.

“The majority of the damage has been done to homes and residential areas,” Leckner said, adding that although it appeared all people had been accounted for, crews were going door to door to be sure.

In Belvidere, Illinois, some of the 260 people attending a heavy metal concert at the Apollo Theatre pulled a man from the rubble after part of the roof collapsed; he was dead when emergency workers arrived. Officials said 28 other people were injured at the theatre, some severely.

“They dragged someone out from the rubble, and I sat with him and I held his hand and I was [telling him] ‘It’s going to be OK.’ I didn’t really know much else what to do,” concertgoer Gabrielle Lewellyn told WTVO-TV.

Crews worked Saturday to clean up around the Apollo, with forklifts pulling away loosely hanging bricks. Business owners picked up shards of glass and covered shattered windows.

The damaged remains of the Walnut Ridge neighbourhood in Little Rock, Arkansas [Benjamin Krain/ Getty Images]

Three people died in Indiana’s Sullivan County, near the Illinois line about 95 miles (150km) southwest of Indianapolis.

In the Little Rock area in Arkansas, at least one person was killed and more than two dozen were hurt, some critically, authorities said. Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott said that 2,100 homes and businesses were in the tornado’s path, but that no assessment had been done on how many were damaged.

Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders activated 100 members of the National Guard to help local authorities respond.

A suspected tornado killed a woman in northern Alabama’s Madison County, said county official Mac McCutcheon. And in northern Mississippi’s Pontotoc County, officials confirmed one death and four injuries.

The turbulent weather came after President Joe Biden toured the wreckage of a major storm that hit the state of Mississippi last week.

The swarm of thunderstorms unleashed a deadly tornado that devastated the Mississippi town of Rolling Fork, destroying many of the community’s 400 homes and killing 25 people. One person was killed in neighbouring Alabama

Bident promised to rebuild in Mississippi as meteorologists warned millions of people to brace for enormous storms brewing over at least 15 states in the Midwest and southern US, with more than 85 million people under weather advisories on Friday.

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