Arkansas’s governor said that two people died due to a devastating storm ripped through the southern state on Friday.
The US National Weather Service issued a tornado emergency for Arkansas’s capital of Little Rock and surrounding areas on Friday, warning that 350,000 people were in danger from a “confirmed large and destructive tornado.”
Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders declared a state of emergency and said there was “significant damage” in the central part of the state. She also appealed for locals to remain “weather aware” amid more general extreme weather warnings for the region.
Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott said in a tweet he had asked Sanders’ office to send National Guard forces to assist with the “devastating” tornado.
The University of Arkansas for Medical Science (UAMS), the state’s sole major trauma hospital, told multiple domestic and international news outlets that it had declared a mass casualty event and was on standby for potential injuries.
Elsewhere in Arkansas, several homes were devastated in the eastern town of Wynne, with people trapped in the debris, officials said.
The tornado left over 90,000 people without power across Arkansas, according to tracking website Poweroutage.us.
Images and videos of the tornado quickly circulated online, showing the extent of the devastation.
Roofs and walls were ripped off buildings, trees were uprooted and vehicles were overturned, with some couple of dozen people injured.
The southern state of Arkansas borders the Mississippi river, sandwiched between Texas and Mississippi, with a population of just over 3 million. Little Rock is the state’s largest city, home to roughly 200,000 people.
The tornadoes continued to spin as the day progressed, with the National Weather Service saying it was tracking at least three dozen unconfirmed tornado reports in Arkansas, Tennessee, Illinois and Iowa.
Power lines were meanwhile down in Covington, Tennessee, police reported, with hail in Illinois large enough to damage surfaces, and grass set ablaze by the wind in Oklahoma.
One tornado ripped through the University of Iowa, canceling a watch party. The tornado destroyed several buildings in Iowa’s Carolville suburb.
Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden and his wife Jill on Friday visited Rolling Fork, in the neighboring southern state of Mississippi, talking to residents and officials and surveying the damage after similar storms killed 26 people last week.
“The thing that really always amazes me about all the tornadoes is that you have one house standing, one house from here to the wall, totally destroyed. But for the grace of God,” Biden said.
The president pledged his federal government’s assistance to rebuild the southern state.
He had announced that the federal government would cover the full cost of Mississippi’s emergency measures in response to the storm. Measures to be covered include removing debris, operating shelters and paying first responders’ overtime.
“We’re not just here for today. I’m determined that we’re going to leave nothing behind,” he said. “We’re going to get it done for you.”