Dozens feared dead, communities in the Midwest and southern United States were left struggling to assess the damage Saturday morning after a series of powerful storms and tornadoes swept through five states overnight.
Officials said there were “confirmed deaths” after a roof collapsed at an Amazon warehouse in Illinois, and that three of them had died in Tennessee and at least one in a nursing home in Arkansas. At least 50 people were killed in the path of a hurricane that exceeded 200 miles in length, the Kentucky governor said, and the death toll in the state is likely to rise to more than 70 in the coming hours.
“Dawn will bring more difficult news,” Governor Andy Beshear said at a news briefing. “It was one of the toughest nights in Kentucky history,” he added. “Some areas have been targeted in ways that are hard to describe in words.”
Hurricanes hit at least five states Friday night, including Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri and Tennessee, said Bill Bunting, chief of operations for the Storm Prediction Center, part of the National Weather Service.
He said hurricanes were part of a weather system that was wreaking havoc in many parts of the country, causing significant snowfall across parts of the upper Midwest and western Great Lakes.
Police officers and emergency workers responded to reports that the roof of an Amazon warehouse in Edwardsville, Illinois, had collapsed.
The Edwardsville Police Department said early Saturday that the storms, which began around 8:30 p.m. Friday, caused “catastrophic damage to a significant portion” of the Amazon warehouse. Police said a search and rescue operation was underway and the closest relatives had been notified.
A dispatcher who answered the phone at the police station Saturday morning said he had no comment.
Update: We have learned that about 40 Amazon employees have been transferred to the Pontoon Beach Police Department. We spoke to a man who was in the warehouse – he described seeing people buried under rubble and cars lying in a storage pond. https://t.co/LhFhs3fKUW
— Susan ElKhoury (@SusanElKhoury) December 11, 2021
Clair County Emergency Management Agency director Herbert Simmons said late Friday that local officials were responding to an “active scene” at the warehouse. “At the moment, what we are concerned about is trying to get the people trapped,” he said, adding that he was not sure how many people might be in the building.
A BBC reporter at the scene at around the same time said he believed around 100 people were inside.
Two people have died in Tennessee in Lake County and one in Obion County in the western part of the state, said Dean Flair, a spokesperson for the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency.
As of Saturday morning, more than 132,000 homes in Tennessee, about 60,000 homes in Kentucky, more than 25,000 in Arkansas, nearly 24,000 in Illinois, and nearly 10,000 homes in Missouri, were without power, according to reports. Compiled by PowerOutage.us.
A tornado struck an Arkansas nursing home, Monnett Manor in the city of Monnett, around 8:15 p.m. Friday, prompting a massive response by police and area emergency workers, according to Craighead County Judge Marvin Day.
Day said search and rescue workers found one person dead and five seriously injured, correcting an earlier report of at least two deaths. Mr. Day said other apartment buildings in the area were also damaged.
“It’s really heartbreaking,” he said.
The damage in Arkansas came after a severe thunderstorm caused a tornado to hit the area, according to the National Weather Service. As of 9:17 p.m., the weather service said the storm was near the city of Truman, moving northeast at 55 miles per hour, bringing a hurricane and a quarter-size hail.
“Remember, there are people out there affected by all of these hurricanes,” said Craig Ceci, a meteorologist and graduate student at Mississippi State University, He said on Twitter late Friday while tracking tornadoes across Kentucky. “Communities are being hit hard. We won’t know how bad it is until morning. We have to think and pray for those affected.”