Terrifying moment monster tornado rips apart Arkansas capital Little Rock leaving at least 600 injured and ‘catastrophic damage’ to homes – as a SECOND twister batters Des Moines just week after 26 killed in Mississippi
- A monster tornado has been filmed ripping apart Arkansas capital Little Rock
- Severe storms are forecast across swathes of the country on Friday afternoon
- Forecasters say the conditions driving the storms are similar to those which brought devastation to southern states last week – killing at least 26 people
A monster tornado has ripped apart Arkansas capital Little Rock, just a week after more than two dozen deadly twisters tore through Mississippi and parts of Alabama killing at least 26.
Footage of the ferocious weather system was filmed from the 7th floor of the Little Rock Baptist Medical Center. The person filming could be heard gasping at the massive swirling twister.
A man, who appeared unaware of the vortex, was filmed standing on the roof of another building as the powerful tornado – which reportedly reached level 3 or ‘mass casualty’ strength – travelled towards him.
Another video in the wake of the massive system revealed debris scattered in the streets of Little Rock, which is just three-hours north west of Rolling Fork, where deadly storms hit last week.
According to the Metropolitan Emergency Medical Services at least 600 people were injured although no casualties have been recorded as yet. Meanwhile, a second tornado has been spotted forming in Des Moines.
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 Little Rock Fire Department reported heavy damage and debris in the western end of the city.
Firefighters were performing rescue operations in the area, the department said on its Facebook page. Other details were not immediately available.
Passengers and airport employees at Clinton National Airport in Little Rock took shelter in bathrooms and were ordered to stay there until 3:45 p.m.
Aerial footage showed several rooftops were torn from homes in Little Rock and nearby Benton. There were no immediate reports of injuries.
Nearly 70,000 customers in Arkansas were out of power on Friday afternoon, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks outages.
About 32,000 were without power in neighboring Oklahoma, where where wind gusts between 50 and 60 mph fueled fast-moving grass fires.
People were urged to evacuate homes in far northeast Oklahoma City, and troopers shut down portions of Interstate 35 near the suburb of Edmond.
More outages were reported in Kansas, Missouri and Texas.
The ‘intense supercell thunderstorms ‘ predicted for Friday afternoon are only expected to become more common, especially in Southern states, as temperatures rise around the world.
Apart from Little Rock, the major population centers at high risk for storms starting Friday afternoon include Chicago; St. Louis; Jonesboro, Arkansas; and Des Moines and Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
‘There will be lots of thunderstorms … tornadoes, damaging winds, and large hail,’ said Northern Illinois meteorology professor and tornado expert Victor Gensini.
People in those areas should stock emergency supplies, prepare for power outages, avoid getting stranded in places vulnerable to falling trees or severe hail, and park vehicles in garages if possible, meteorologists said.
Forecasters warned of a ‘relatively rare, significant severe weather threat’ around Chicago that could include powerful winds, tornadoes and large hail.
In Iowa City, the University of Iowa canceled Friday’s watch party for fans who planned to gather for the women’s basketball Final Four game against South Carolina. Deputy Director of Athletics Matt Henderson said in a statement the decision was made ‘due to the unpredictable timing of possible severe weather and potential storm impact.’
The weather service is forecasting another batch of intense storms next Tuesday in the same general area as last week.
Tornado warnings were issued to 21 states with nearly 90 million people on Friday – as forecasters said conditions could be similar to those which caused death and destruction across the south last week.
People across large sections of the Midwest and southern US are warned to prepare for dangerous weather including tornadoes this afternoon.
An outbreak of severe thunderstorms also has the potential to cause hail and damaging wind gusts, according to the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center.
The major population centers at greatest risk for storms starting Friday afternoon include Memphis, Tennessee; Little Rock and Jonesboro, Arkansas; and Des Moines and Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
But people throughout eastern Iowa, western and northern Illinois, Missouri and Arkansas should also be prepared, said Northern Illinois meteorology professor and tornado expert Victor Gensini.
The warnings come just a week after a series of devastating tornadoes tore through Mississippi and parts of Alabama. Those storms obliterated towns and one cut a deadly path across 170 miles, leaving at least 25 dead in the two states.
Gensini said Friday’s atmospheric setup is similar to the conditions that were present during Mississippi’s deadly storm.
‘There will be lots of thunderstorms… tornadoes, damaging winds, and large hail,’ he said.
People in areas under the latest warnings should stock emergency supplies, prepare for power outages, avoid getting stranded in places vulnerable to falling trees or severe hail, and park vehicles in garages if possible, meteorologists said.
The bad weather could also extend into Chicago, where forecasters warned of a ‘relatively rare, significant severe weather threat’ that includes powerful winds, tornadoes and large hail.
The hazardous forecast is a result of strong southerly winds transporting copious amounts of moisture from the Gulf of Mexico north, where they will interact with the strengthening storm system.
In South Dakota, Governor Kristi Noem ordered state executive branch offices to be closed on Friday in parts of the state, as freezing rain, snow and high winds were expected. Many counties were under blizzard or ice storm warnings.
The weather service is also forecasting a further batch of intense storms next Tuesday in the same general area as last week. At least the first 10 days of April will be rough, Accuweather meteorologist Brandon Buckingham said.
Last Friday night’s vicious tornado in Mississippi killed dozens of people, injured many more and flattened entire blocks as it carved a path of destruction for more than an hour.
About 2,000 homes were damaged or destroyed, according to the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency.
The toll was especially steep in western Mississippi’s Sharkey County, where 13 people were killed in a county of 3,700 residents. Winds of up to 200 mph (322 kph) barreled through the rural farming town of Rolling Fork, reducing homes to piles of rubble, flipping cars and toppling the town’s water tower.
Bill Bunting, the weather service’s Storm Prediction Center chief of forecasting operations, said people need to have a severe weather plan in place that includes multiple ways to receive storm warning information.
‘We’ve all seen the coverage of the heartbreaking situations in other parts of the country. Our fervent hope is that people pay attention to the forecasts that have been out for several days now regarding Friday’s threat,’ Bunting said.
President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden traveled to Rolling Fork on Friday.
Biden is expected to announce that the federal government will cover the total cost of the Mississippi’s emergency measures for the next 30 days, including overtime for first responders and debris cleanup.
The president and first lady will survey the damage, meet with homeowners impacted by the storms and first responders and get an operational briefing from federal and state officials.
They’re expected to be joined by Governor Tate Reeves, Mississippi Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith and Rep. Bennie Thompson.
In a statement after the tornado, Biden pledged that the federal government would ‘do everything we can to help’.
‘We will be there as long as it takes,’ he said. ‘We will work together to deliver the support you need to recover.’
Presidents regularly visit parts of the US that have been ravaged by natural disasters or suffered major loss of life from shootings or another disaster.
Republicans have criticized Biden for not yet making a trip to the site of a toxic chemical spill in a small Ohio town.
He also has to decide whether to visit Nashville after three children and three adults were shot and killed at Covenant School.
Last week’s severe weather makes life even more difficult in an area already struggling economically.
Mississippi is one of the poorest states, and the majority-Black Delta has long been one of the poorest parts of the state — a place where many people live paycheck to paycheck, often in jobs connected to agriculture.