LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A tornado plowed through Little Rock and surrounding areas on Friday afternoon, reducing rooftops to splinters, toppling vehicles and tossing debris on roadways as people raced for shelter.
More than 350,000 people were at risk as what the National Weather Service called a “confirmed large and destructive tornado” tore through business districts and neighborhoods in Little Rock and North Little Rock.
Passengers and airport employees at Clinton National Airport in Little Rock took shelter in bathrooms and were ordered to stay there until 3:45 p.m. Aerial footage showed several rooftops were torn from homes in Little Rock and nearby Benton.
Reports of injuries are still unconfirmed.
Nearly 70,000 customers in Arkansas were out of power on Friday afternoon, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks outages; about 37,000 were without power in neighboring Oklahoma.
Massive storms brewing over at least 15 states in the Midwest and southern U.S. on Friday have meteorologists urging people to brace for dangerous weather including tornadoes, saying the conditions are similar to those a week ago that unleashed a devastating twister that killed at least 21 people in Mississippi.
More than 85 million people were under weather advisories Friday as the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center 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.
The area at greatest risk for storms on Friday follows a large stretch of the Mississippi River from Wisconsin all the way to Mississippi, with rare high-risk advisories centered around Memphis; and between Davenport, Iowa, and Quincy, Illinois and surrounding areas.
Forecasters issued tornado watches over both high-risk regions until Friday evening, with the weather service expecting numerous tornadoes and calling it a “particularly dangerous situation.”
All told, by Friday afternoon, tornado watches issued by the National Weather Service cover most of Missouri, Arkansas and Iowa; western Illinois; and parts of Wisconsin, Texas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Mississippi. Tornado warnings were issued for isolated areas of Arkansas, Missouri and Illinois on Friday afternoon.
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