Several states ravaged by deadly tornadoes could see more twisters this week

Apr 3, 2023, 6:13 PM

People work to remove a tree that fell onto a home, in the aftermath of a tornado in Little Rock, A...

People work to remove a tree that fell onto a home, in the aftermath of a tornado in Little Rock, Arkansas, Sunday. (Cheney Orr/Reuters via CNN)

(Cheney Orr/Reuters via CNN)

(CNN) — Parts of the Midwest and South devastated by catastrophic tornadoes will have almost no time to recover before another round of dangerous storms takes aim at hard-hit areas.

At least 32 people were killed after an onslaught of tornado-spawning storms Friday obliterated houses, ripped roofs off buildings, wiped out power and prompted governors to announce disaster declarations.

At least 50 confirmed tornadoes touched down in several states in the South and Midwest.

Now, some of those same areas ravaged by twisters — including central Arkansas, eastern Iowa and northern Illinois — will see another round of storms Tuesday threatening more tornadoes, large hail and damaging winds.

Some areas in the South already saw high winds Monday afternoon, with nearly 20 storm reports across southern Georgia, southern Alabama and the Florida Panhandle. There were two tornado reports in southeastern Alabama and two hail reports in southwestern Georgia, while high winds impacted regions in all three states — including Decatur, Georgia, which reported a powerful wind gust of 79 mph.

And while there will be a brief lull in the harsh weather Monday night and early Tuesday, a new storm system will bring fresh woes Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday, putting more than 45 million people from Dallas to Milwaukee under threats of some kind of severe storm.

More than three million people are under a moderate risk for severe storms on Tuesday afternoon into Wednesday, in areas including Springfield, Missouri, and Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Other cities that could see storms include St. Louis, Des Moines and Little Rock, Arkansas, which was ravaged by a violent tornado Friday.

The Storm Prediction Center has issued a moderate risk — a Level 4 out of 5 — for southern Missouri, northwestern Arkansas and southeastern Oklahoma, saying the possibility was rising that those areas see “rare and dangerous overnight tornadoes and damaging winds” into Wednesday.

A Level 4 risk means long-lived, “widespread and intense” storms are likely.

The same risk also stands for parts of Iowa, Illinois and northern Missouri for Tuesday afternoon and into Wednesday.

“Both afternoon and overnight potential will exist across various regions, including the risk of dangerous nighttime tornadoes,” the prediction center warned about Tuesday’s storms.

It’ll take ‘resources beyond our means’ to recover

The city of Wynne, Arkansas — population 8,300 — was virtually “cut in half” by a tornado that sliced the city from west to east, destroying homes and killing at least four people, Mayor Jennifer Hobbs said.

It’ll take “resources beyond our means” to recover, Hobbs told CNN.

The tornado was rated as a powerful EF-3 by the National Weather Service, with estimated wind gusts topping 136 mph.

“We have a lot of families that are completely devastated — have no home at all. No belongings survived,” the mayor said.

Tennessee reported the highest death toll with 15 weather-related fatalities confirmed over the weekend, including 9 deaths in McNairy County alone.

McNairy County Sheriff Guy Buck said the toll could have been much higher if residents had not heeded early warnings and sought out proper shelter.

“Had they not, looking at the devastation that we had, our death toll could have been in the hundreds,” Buck told CNN. “The power of Mother Nature is something not to be underestimated.”

About 30 miles north of Memphis, three Tipton County schools are closed Monday due to either “extensive damage” or a lack of power, school officials said.

In Illinois, four people were killed, including one person who died after the roof of the Apollo Theatre in Belvidere collapsed Friday with more than 200 people gathered inside.

More storm deaths were reported in Indiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Delaware.

What used to be homes now ‘looks like a war zone’

President Joe Biden issued a major disaster declaration for Arkansas ahead of a trip Sunday by FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell to survey the damage and assess the needs on the ground.

Criswell toured Little Rock, where more than 2,900 structures were impacted when an EF-3 tornado roared through Pulaski and Lonoke counties, whipping estimated peak winds of 165 mph, authorities said.

Many residents were displaced from an apartment building in Little Rock that “literally looks like a war zone,” Mayor Frank Scott Jr. said Sunday.

“From the time our first responders rushed to help their friends and neighbors, to now with the help of volunteers, friends and family, we have rallied as a city to recover and begin to rebuild,” Scott tweeted.

‘Everything we worked for and paid for is gone’

In Covington, Tennessee, an EF-3 tornado tore a large swath of destruction and left roads impassable.

Teresa Blankenship’s property took a direct hit, with the tornado shredding her home and flipping over her brand-new car, CNN affiliate WHBQ reported.

“We’ve lived in this house 44 years. Everything we worked for and paid for is gone,” Blankenship told WHBQ.

She and her husband saw the tornado headed straight for their home and had just enough time to hop into their underground storm shelter.

“I believe it saved our lives,” Blankenship told the station as she stood near the mangled remains of her home.

More than 200 miles away, an EF-2 tornado tore through the area of Readyville, Tennessee, early Saturday morning, ripping the roof off the US Post Office building and destroying the historic Readyville Mill. Numerous homes were also destroyed.

“It looked like a bomb went off,” Rutherford County Mayor Joe Carr said.

In Whiteland, Indiana, residents spent hours Sunday trying to salvage what they could from the wreckage of destroyed homes. They looked for wedding dresses, high school diplomas, keys, wallets and other items.

“We’re trying to go through what we can find, what we can actually pull out of the rooms where the walls have collapsed in,” one resident told CNN affiliate WTHR as he searched through the destroyed relative’s home. “By looking at it, they’re lucky they made it out alive.”

Another Indiana resident described the terrifying moment the storm beat against her home.

“We heard whistles like a train. It was just roaring. Our ears started having a bad pressure; we had to put our hands over our ears. Everybody was running to the basement and we got down there, I heard glass shattering,” one Sullivan resident told WTHR.

“When we came back up, everything was just gone.”

The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

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Several states ravaged by deadly tornadoes could see more twisters this week