‘Absolute Chaos’ as Tornadoes Rip Through Multiple States


Apr 1, 2023 5:10 PM CDT

The scope of the destruction caused by what may have been dozens of tornadoes that swept through parts of the South and Midwest the day before became clearer late Saturday. Officials raised the death toll to 21, the AP reports; seven of the victims were killed in Tennessee’s McNairy County. Search-and-rescue crews were still working in places as cleanup began. Tornadoes were confirmed or suspected of touching down in at least eight states. Clint Lamb, the mayor of Sullivan, Indiana, said that an area just outside his town “is essentially unrecognizable right now.” Recovery, he said, “is going to be a very long process.”

Apr 1, 2023 8:00 AM CDT

A monster storm system tore through the South and Midwest on Friday, spawning deadly tornadoes that shredded homes and shopping centers in Arkansas, collapsed a theater roof during a heavy metal concert in Illinois, and made a deadly sweep across the border into rural Indiana. The storm caused three fatalities in Sullivan County, Indiana, Emergency Management Director Jim Pirtle said in an email to the AP early Saturday. The storm damaged homes, and some residents were missing in the county seat of Sullivan, located near the Illinois state line, about 95 miles southwest of Indianapolis. At least one person was killed and more than two dozen were hurt, some critically, in the area of Little Rock, Arkansas, authorities said.

The town of Wynne, in northeastern Arkansas, was also devastated, and officials reported two dead there, along with destroyed homes and people trapped in the debris. Authorities said a theater roof collapsed during a tornado in Belvidere, Illinois, killing one person and injuring 28, five of them severely. The Belvidere Police Department said the collapse occurred as a heavy storm rolled through the area and that calls began coming from the theater at 7:48pm. It said that an initial assessment was that a tornado had caused the damage. The collapse occurred at the Apollo Theatre during a heavy metal concert in the town, located about 70 miles northwest of Chicago. Belvidere Fire Department Chief Shawn Schadle said 260 people were in the venue. He noted that first responders also rescued someone from an elevator and had to grapple with downed power lines outside the theater.

Belvidere Police Chief Shane Woody described the scene after the collapse as “chaos, absolute chaos.” There were more confirmed twisters in Iowa and wind-whipped grass fires blazed in Oklahoma, as the storm system threatened a broad swath of the country home to some 85 million people. Tornadoes also moved through parts of eastern Iowa, with sporadic damage. One tornado veered just west of Iowa City, home to the University of Iowa. The destructive weather came as President Joe Biden toured the aftermath of a deadly tornado that struck in Mississippi one week ago and promised the government would help the area recover. Such intense “supercell” thunderstorms are only expected to become more common, especially in Southern states, as temperatures rise around the world.

(Read more tornadoes stories.)