A deadly storm system ripped through the South and Midwest on Friday, killing 21 people and leaving behind destruction in multiple states. Tennessee’s McNairy County and Huntsville, Alabama reported seven and one deaths respectively, while four people were killed in Wynne, Arkansas. Sullivan County, Indiana reported three fatalities, one in both North Little Rock and Pontotoc County, Mississippi and three in Crawford County, Illinois. Belvidere, Illinois saw the most casualties with a 50-year-old man dead and forty other people injured after the collapse of a theater roof.
President Biden’s visit to Mississippi, where the first tornado had struck and killed at least twenty-one people earlier that week, to promise the government’s assistance gave unique insight into the fragility of human life and the devastation it can cause. Little Rock experienced the brunt of the storm and immense property damage. Mayor Frank Scott Jr. revealed his plans to involve the National Guard in assistance after receiving reports of widespread destruction to homes, businesses and vehicles. Residents taking cover as the tornado passed conveyed the terror of the situation, including Niki Scott who emerged from her bathroom to discover her house was amongst the few not hit by a fallen tree.
Fifty miles west of Memphis, Tenessee, the small city of Wynne saw severe tornado damage. City Councilmember Lisa Powell Carter shared images of the devastation to roads and homes with no power. Neighboring Oklahoma, meanwhile, experienced wind gusts of up to sixty mph, forcing the evacuation of homes in north-east Oklahoma City and large portions of Interstate 35 shutting down. Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport also saw huge delays on average with two hour waits due to a traffic management program.
The National Weather Service, forecasters of the impending storm, predicted an unusually large outbreak of thunderstorms with hail, damaging wind gusts and strong tornadoes that could move for long distances over the ground, particularly in Southern states as global temperatures rise. Next Tuesday, the same general storm track is expected to cause more intense storms.
The storm hit the South and Midwest with a ferocity unseen in recent years, leaving behind a trail of destruction and carnage that won’t soon be erased. The National Guard has mobilized to provide assistance to those affected and President Biden has promised to match the devastation with equal funding for its healing. Unfortunately, the death toll is expected to rise as authorities access the damage, leaving us with the sobering realization that Mother Nature always has her way.