Watch CBS News

At least 33 dead, dozens more injured as tornadoes hit Midwest, South and Northeast

At least 33 killed as tornadoes sweep through U.S.
At least 33 killed as tornadoes sweep through U.S. 02:20

Residents across a wide swath of the U.S. raced Sunday to assess the destruction from fierce storms that spawned possibly dozens of tornadoes from the South and the Midwest into the Northeast, killing at least 33 people.

The storms tore a path through the Arkansas capital and also collapsed the roof of a packed concert venue in Illinois, stunning people throughout the region with the scope of the damage.

The number of deaths continued to grow Sunday.

"While we are still assessing the full extent of the damage, we know families across America are mourning the loss of loved ones, desperately waiting for news of others fighting for their lives, and sorting through the rubble of their homes and businesses," President Biden said in a statement.  

At least 15 deaths were reported across Tennessee, with nine storm-related deaths in McNairy County, Tennessee, the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency confirmed to CBS News Sunday night. Three others were killed in Shelby County, TEMA said.

In Tennessee's Tipton County, one weather-related fatality and 28 injuries were blamed on the storm, according to Tipton County Sheriff Shannon Beasley. Roane and Henry Counties each recorded one storm-related death as of Sunday night, TEMA said.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee drove to the county Saturday to tour the destruction and comfort residents. He said the storm capped the "worst" week of his time as governor, coming days after a school shooting in Nashville that killed six people including a family friend whose funeral he and his wife just attended.

"It's terrible what has happened in this community, this county, this state," Lee said. "But it looks like your community has done what Tennessean communities do, and that is rally and respond."

A firefighter helps with search and rescue operations after
A firefighter helps with search and rescue operations after a tornado in Sullivan, Indiana.  Jeremy Hogan/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Rachel Milam lived in the basement with her 6-year-old daughter, while her mother and her mother's boyfriend lived upstairs in their home on the outskirts of Waynesboro, Tennessee.

All squeezed into the bathroom of the cinder block basement Friday night as the tornado approached and made whooshing sounds like a washing machine.

"As it ripped the roof off, the shower curtain fell," Milam, 26, said Sunday. "So I'm trying to dig through the shower curtain and see. I saw darkness and then rain started to fall."

Then absolute terror.

"And the house — I watched it pick up and move … about six inches and then pick up and it was gone."

"I was just thinking it's gonna take the tub, like we're going to be gone," she said.

A piece of wood fell over them. So did a mirror. "We were fine and just thankful that we made it out alive," Milam said.

Milam, who works as a nurse, soon joined other neighbors in digging people out from wrecked homes. One woman had a laceration to her face and other parts of her body and was flown out by a helicopter. Another man was freed from the rubble of his home by rescuers who used chainsaws to slice through the debris.

Jeffrey Day said he called his daughter after seeing on the news that their community of Adamsville was being hit. Huddled in a closet with her 2-year-old son as the storm passed over, she answered the phone screaming.

"She kept asking me, 'What do I do, daddy?'" Day said, tearing up. "I didn't know what to say."

After the storm passed, his daughter crawled out of her destroyed home and drove to nearby family.

On Saturday evening, at least one person was killed when a suspected tornado caused a structure to collapse near the Delaware town of Greenwood, the Sussex County government reported.  

Bethany DeBussy, a town manager for nearby Bridgeville, Delaware, told CBS News in an email that there were multiple reports of vehicle accidents and entrapments, downed power lines and gas leaks. The National Weather Service confirmed Sunday that a tornado was responsible for the damage near Bridgeville. One person was found dead inside a house heavily damaged by the storm Saturday night, Delaware State Police reported.

Near Huntsville, Alabama, a 90-year-old woman died inside her home after it was destroyed by a tornado, Don Webster, a spokesman with Huntsville Emergency Medical Services told CBS News.

The town of Wynne in northeastern Arkansas was also devastated. The town's coroner told CBS News there were four people dead there. Officials also said there were people trapped in the debris of destroyed homes. 

Residents of Wynne, a community of about 8,000 people 50 miles (80 kilometers) west of Memphis, Tennessee, woke Saturday to find the high school's roof shredded and its windows blown out.

Ashley Macmillan said she, her husband and their children huddled with their dogs in a bathroom as a tornado passed, "praying and saying goodbye to each other, because we thought we were dead." A falling tree seriously damaged their home, but they escaped unhurt.

Tornadoes that ravage US kill at least 26
A view of the area after the tornado covering a path of dozens of miles in length caused severe damage in Little Rock, Arkansas, United States on April 02, 2023. Peter Zay/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

More than two dozen were hurt, some critically, in the Little Rock area, authorities said. One weather-related death was reported in North Little Rock, according to Madeline Roberts, a spokesperson for the Pulaski County Emergency Management Agency.

Biden earlier declared broad areas of the country major disaster areas, making federal resources and financial aid available for recovery.

Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders in Arkansas, where at least five people were killed, already had declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard.

Confirmed or suspected tornadoes in 11 states destroyed homes and businesses, splintered trees and laid waste to neighborhoods.

Sullivan County, Indiana's emergency management director Jim Pirtle told CBS News that there had been three deaths there. 

The destructive weather came as President Biden earlier Friday toured the aftermath of the tornado that struck Mississippi one week ago, killing at least 21 people. "While we are still assessing the full extent of the damage, we know families across America are mourning the loss of loved ones, desperately waiting for news of others fighting for their lives, and sorting through the rubble of their homes and businesses," Mr. Biden said in a statement on Sunday.

theater roof collapsed during a tornado in Belvidere, Illinois, killing a 50-year-old man and injuring about 40 others, officials said in a news briefing Saturday. 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 7:48 p.m. 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. 

Two of the injured had life-threatening injuries, two had severe injuries, 18 had milder injuries, and five had minor injuries, Belvidere Fire Chief Shawn Schadle said Saturday. 

Severe Weather Illinois
Authorities work the scene at the Apollo Theatre after a severe spring storm caused damage and injuries during a concert, late Friday, March 31, 2023, in Belvidere, Ill. Matt Marton / AP

Three people were killed when a residential structure collapsed in Crawford County, Alicia Tate-Nadeau, director of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, confirmed to CBS News. 

A 13-year-old girl in Warren Township, Ohio, was killed Saturday afternoon when a large oak tree fell onto her home, trapping her under the rubble, according to the Warren Township Police Department.

Firefighters were delayed in reaching the girl due to the extensive damage, which made the structure unstable, police said. She died at the scene. Warren Township is about 50 miles east of Cleveland. 

One weather-related death and four injuries occurred in Pontotoc County Friday, according to the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency. 

Meanwhile, the Little Rock tornado tore first through neighborhoods in the western part of the city and shredded a small shopping center that included a Kroger grocery store. It then crossed the Arkansas River into North Little Rock and surrounding cities, where widespread damage was reported to homes, businesses and vehicles.

Severe Weather Arkansas
A home is damaged and trees are down after a tornado swept through Little Rock, Ark., Friday, March 31, 2023. Andrew DeMillo / AP

Baptist Health Medical Center-Little Rock officials told KATV Friday that 21 people had checked in there with tornado-caused injuries, including five in critical condition.

Mayor Frank Scott Jr., who announced that he was requesting assistance from the National Guard, tweeted Friday evening that property damage was extensive and "we are still responding."

Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders activated 100 members of the Arkansas National Guard to help local authorities respond to the damage throughout the state.

In Little Rock, resident Niki Scott took cover in the bathroom after her husband called to say a tornado was headed her way. She could hear glass shattering as the tornado roared past and emerged afterward to find that her house was one of the few on her street that didn't have a tree fall on it.

"It's just like everyone says. It got really quiet, then it got really loud," Scott said afterward, as chainsaws roared and sirens blared in the area.

At Clinton National Airport, passengers and workers sheltered temporarily in bathrooms.

About 50 miles west of Memphis, Tennessee, the small city of Wynne, Arkansas, saw widespread tornado damage, Sanders confirmed.

Severe Weather Iowa
Homes are damaged after a tornado swept through Coralville, Iowa, Friday, March 31, 2023. Ryan Foley / AP

One tornado veered just west of Iowa City, home to the University of Iowa. Video from KCRG-TV showed toppled power poles and roofs ripped off an apartment building in the suburb of Coralville and significantly damaged homes in the city of Hills.

In neighboring Oklahoma, wind gusts of up to 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.

APTOPIX Severe Weather Arkansas
A car is upturned in a Kroger parking lot after a severe storm swept through Little Rock, Ark., Friday, March 31, 2023. Andrew DeMillo / AP

In Illinois, Ben Wagner, chief radar operator for the Woodford County Emergency Management Agency, said hail broke windows on cars and buildings in the area of Roanoke, northeast of Peoria. More than 109,000 customers had lost power in the state as of Friday night.

Fire crews battled several blazes near El Dorado, Kansas, and some residents were asked to evacuate, including about 250 elementary school children who were relocated to a high school.

At Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, a traffic management program was put into effect that caused arriving planes to be delayed by nearly two hours on average, WFLD-TV reported.

The National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center had forecast an unusually large outbreak of thunderstorms with the potential to cause hail, damaging wind gusts and strong tornadoes that could move for long distances over the ground.

Such "intense supercell thunderstorms" are only expected to become more common, especially in Southern states, as temperatures rise around the world.

The weather service is forecasting another batch of intense storms next Tuesday in the same general area as last week.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.