Major tornado outbreak — Large and destructive tornadoes hit Little Rock and Wynne, Arkansas
A major tornado outbreak hit a wide area of the U.S. Midwest and South on Friday, March 31, 2023, producing several large and destructive tornadoes. At this time, it appears the worst affected were Little Rock and Wynne in Arkansas.
- The twisters are a part of a major tornado outbreak over a wide area of the Midwest and South — a rare High Risk of Severe Thunderstorms has been issued for portions of southeast Iowa, west-central Illinois, far northeastern Missouri, and parts of eastern Arkansas, northern Mississippi, and southwestern Tennessee.
A large, catastrophic tornado ripped through the city of Little Rock, Arkansas on Friday, prompting authorities to issue a state of emergency and seek National Guard assistance. At least 23 people were injured of which 5 critically but officials said it’s still too early to determine the total number of injuries.
Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the tornado touched down early Friday afternoon (LT), causing significant damage, tearing off roofs, overturning vehicles, and uprooting trees throughout the city.
Several homes in Oak Ridge, a community located just north of Little Rock, were reported to have been destroyed. In addition to the destruction in Oak Ridge, significant damage was also reported at Bowman Curve and Mara Lynn apartments, where trees were down and homes were damaged or destroyed. Nearby Pontiac and Osage in North Little Rock also experienced severe damage, with reports of more downed trees and homes that were impacted. The Leawood neighborhood in Midtown was also hit hard, with reports of additional damaged homes.
More than 50 000 customers — or about 123 000 people — are estimated to be without power in the Little Rock area.
Wynne in Arkansas, a town of about 8 300 people, was also hit by a destructive tornado. Search and rescue efforts are still in progress.
Dozens of people are trapped, Wynne Police Chief Richard Dennis said, adding that there is a ‘total destruction throughout the town.”
“I’m in a panic trying to get home, but we can’t get home. Wynne is so demolished. … There’s houses destroyed, trees down on streets,” City Councilmember Lisa Powell Carter told the Associated Press by phone.
Another large tornado touched down in Keoukk County, Iowa. Debris was seen shooting up into the air as the tornado slowly churned and heavy rain poured down, AccuWeather reported.
Multiple power lines were ripped out of the ground and acres of farmland were damaged. At one point, the sky darkened quickly just before the twister made its way across a street.
Two tornadoes were reported in Illinois, one near Eureka and another in Pleasant Plains.
The Covington Hospital in Tipton County, Tennessee has been damaged, with patients being rerouted to Lauderdale County. Power lines and trees are down on Highway 51 south of Covington, blocking the road.
One church was destroyed and several homes were damaged near the intersection of Fulton Road and Evins Road west of Brownsville, TN.
As of 00:34 UTC on April 1 (19:34 CDT, March 31), more than 161 000 customers — or about 400 000 people are without power in Arkansas, Illinois, Tennessee, Missouri and Oklahoma.
These twisters are part of a major tornado outbreak over a wide area of the Midwest and South.
The Storm Prediction Center (SPC) has issued a rare High Risk of Severe Thunderstorms for portions of southeast Iowa, west-central Illinois, far northeastern Missouri, and parts of eastern Arkansas, northern Mississippi, and southwestern Tennessee.
Damaging wind gusts and very large hail are expected as well, NWS forecaster Kebede said.
People in these areas should remain vigilant and prepared to take emergency precautions if necessary.
Conditions should improve later tonight when the line of convection moves into the Tennessee/Ohio Valley and Southeast.
Showers and thunderstorms will move into the Eastern third of the country on Saturday, April 1.
A Slight Risk of Severe Thunderstorms is in effect for parts of the Northeast, Delaware as well as the Southeast where damaging winds will be the main physical weather concern. There’s a Marginal risk of flash flooding in the Southeast on Saturday. Shortwave energy swinging through the Southern Plains will draw up another round of Gulf moisture, renewing flash flooding concerns over portions of the Lower Mississippi Valley on Sunday that might be impacted by rain and thunderstorms from the ongoing event.
Simultaneously, a winter storm on te northern side of the mid-latitude cyclone will dump heavy snow, strong winds and blizzard conditions from southern Minnesota, northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan tonight. Between 15 and 30 cm (6 – 12 inches) of snow is expected with 6 to 12 mm (0.25 – 0.5 inches) of sleet and some freezing rain possible within the transition zones on the southern periphery of the snow shield.
The combination of heavy snow, wind, freezing rain and sleet may cause issues to power and other infrastructure tonight, Kebede said. Strong winds and Light to moderate snow will linger over parts of the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes on Saturday.
A low pressure system will move into the Pacific Northwest tonight (LT), bringing heavy snow to the Cascades and Northern Rockies, with the possibility of 0.3 – 0.9 m (1 – 3 feet) and 0.6 – 1.2 m (2 – 4 feet) of snow, respectively.
Dry and windy conditions will lead to a Critical Fire Weather threat in parts of southeastern Colorado, southwestern Kansas, and western Oklahoma/Texas. There will be cooler temperatures in the East after a cold front on Saturday night, while the West will remain below average and the Northern/Central Plains and Midwest will drop well below average under high pressure.
21:38 UTC, April 1
At least 20 people have lost their lives during this very destructive tornado outbreak.
In Belvidere, Illinois, a theater’s roof collapsed during a concert, resulting in one fatality and 28 injuries. Seven individuals died in McNairy County, Tennessee. In Arkansas, at least five people died, with significant destruction observed in the Little Rock metropolitan area. Crawford County, Illinois reported two deaths, while three were confirmed in Sullivan County, Indiana. One person lost their life in Madison County, northern Alabama, and another in Pontotoc County, Mississippi.
On Saturday afternoon, the National Weather Service survey team in Little Rock confirmed that Friday afternoon’s tornado caused high-end EF3 damage, with estimated peak winds of 266 km/h (165 mph). The team also reported that the tornado’s path length was between 32 and 40 km (20 and 25 miles) long. Despite their initial findings, the NWS cautioned that the storm survey is ongoing and will take several days to complete.
In total, the National Weather Service documented a minimum of 57 tornadoes across Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin.
As of 11:00 UTC (07:00 EDT), more than 400 000 homes and businesses — about 1 million people — were experiencing power outages.
10:07 UTC, April 3
The death toll rose to at least 32 by Monday, April 3.
According to NWS, more than 80 tornadoes were produced since March 31.
1 LIVE: Large, extremely dangerous tornadoes ravage multiple states amid enormous severe weather outbreak – AccuWeather – March 31, 2023
2 Live Updates: Tornadoes Carve Path Of Destruction In Arkansas, Iowa, Tennessee – TWC – March 31, 2023
3 Short Range Forecast Discussion NWS Weather Prediction Center College Park MD 432 PM EDT Fri Mar 31 2023
Featured image credit: NOAA/GOES-East, RAMMB/CIRA, The Watchers. Acquired at 20:30 UTC on March 31, 2023
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