LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas (Associated Press) — On Friday afternoon, a tornado ripped through Little Rock and the surrounding areas, shattering rooftops, overturning automobiles, and scattering debris across streets as people sought refuge.
More than 350,000 people were at risk when a “confirmed large and destructive tornado” tore through business districts and communities in Little Rock and North Little Rock. This tornado was described by the National Weather Service as “massive and destructive.”
At Clinton National Airport in Little Rock, passengers and airport personnel took cover in the restrooms during inclement weather. And footage shot from above revealed that a number of homes in Little Rock and the neighboring town of Benton had suffered damage to their roofs.
There were no reports of injuries coming in at this time.
Meteorologists are warning people to prepare for dangerous weather, including tornadoes, as massive storms are brewing over at least 15 states in the Midwest and southern U.S. on Friday. They say the conditions are similar to those that a week ago unleashed a devastating twister that killed at least 21 people in Mississippi.
On Friday, the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center forecasted an unusually large outbreak of thunderstorms that had the potential to cause hail, damaging wind gusts, and powerful tornadoes that could move for long distances over the ground. More than 85 million people were under weather advisories as a result of this forecast.
Rare high-risk advisories are located around Memphis; and between Davenport, Iowa, and Quincy, Illinois, and the neighboring areas. The area that is at the greatest danger for storms on Friday follows a vast stretch of the Mississippi River from Wisconsin all the way down to Mississippi.
Forecasters have issued tornado watches for both high-risk regions, which will remain in effect until Friday evening. The National Weather Service anticipates a high number of tornadoes and describes the scenario as “extremely dangerous.”
To summarize, as of Friday afternoon, the National Weather Service had issued tornado watches for the majority of Missouri, Arkansas, and Iowa; western Illinois; and portions of Texas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Mississippi. These watches were also in effect for parts of Wisconsin. On Friday afternoon, the National Weather Service issued tornado watches and warnings for parts of Arkansas, Missouri, and Illinois.
Furthermore on Friday, the National Weather Service warned that regions of Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Kansas were at risk for extensive wildfire owing to the combination of dry conditions, high winds, and warm temperatures.
As temperatures rise around the world, it is anticipated that “strong supercell thunderstorms” like the one that is forecasted to occur on Friday afternoon will become more common, particularly in regions located in the South.
Other than Little Rock, the major metropolitan centers that are at a high danger for storms beginning on Friday afternoon include Chicago, St. Louis, Jonesboro, Arkansas, Des Moines and Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Little Rock is the only big city that is not at risk.
According to Victor Gensini, a professor of meteorology at Northern Illinois University and an expert on tornadoes, “There will be lots of thunderstorms…tornadoes, severe winds, and huge hail.”
Meteorologists have advised residents in these regions to stock up on emergency supplies, stay ready for potential power outages, avoid becoming stuck in locations that are susceptible to damage from falling trees or strong hail, and park their vehicles in garages if feasible.
Forecasters have issued a “very rare, serious severe weather threat” for the Chicago area, which may include massive hail, high winds, and tornadoes.
The University of Iowa in Iowa City has decided not to host the watch party that was scheduled for Friday for the women’s basketball Final Four game against South Carolina. Fans had intended to meet there to watch the game. According to a statement released by the Deputy Director of Athletics, Matt Henderson, the decision to cancel the event was taken “due to the unpredictable timing of expected severe weather and potential storm effect.”
At least 21 people were murdered and dozens more were injured as a ferocious tornado in Mississippi etched a trail of destruction for more than an hour last Friday night. Whole blocks were leveled during the course of the storm. According to the Mississippi Disaster Management Agency, there were approximately 2,000 residences that were either damaged or destroyed.
The death toll was especially high in Sharkey County, which is located in the western part of Mississippi. There, out of a total population of 3,700, thirteen people were murdered. Winds of up to 200 miles per hour (322 kilometers per hour) ripped across the small farming community of Rolling Fork, turning homes into heaps of debris, overturning automobiles, and bringing down the town’s water tower.
According to Gensini, the atmospheric configuration on Friday is comparable to the conditions that prevailed during the hurricane that killed so many people in Mississippi.
The dangerous forecast is due to strong winds blowing from the south, which are delivering abundant amounts of moisture from the Gulf of Mexico to the north, where they will interact with the storm system that is building.
Because of the impending risk of ice rain, snow, and high winds across South Dakota on Friday, Governor Kristi Noem of that state ordered that state executive branch offices in some regions of the state be shuttered. There were blizzard and ice storm warnings for a good number of counties.
The national meteorological office is predicting that the same broad region will be hit by another round of severe thunderstorms on the following Tuesday. According to Accuweather meteorologist Brandon Buckingham, at least the first ten days of April will be challenging. He made this prediction earlier this week.
People need to have a severe weather strategy in place that includes several means to get storm warning information, according to Bill Bunting, the chief of forecasting operations at the Storm Prediction Center of the weather service.
“We have all seen the reportage of the harrowing scenarios that are occurring in other regions of the country. “It is our ardent desire that people would pay attention to the forecasts that have been out there for a few days now regarding the threat that will be occurring on Friday,” Bunting added.