Strong storms that brought tornadoes, high winds, hail and rain to parts of the Midwest and South caused extensive damage in some areas but no deaths, officials said today.
Tornadoes were spotted in Arkansas, Illinois and Iowa as thunderstorms swept through the area Saturday. High winds and a possible tornado were also reported in Indiana.
The National Weather Service said it was still assessing damage and determining the strength of the tornadoes. Among the places that were hit was a mall in Jonesboro, Arkansas, and an apartment building in the northeastern Iowa community of Oelwein.
In Jonesboro, most stores at The Mall at Turtle Creek were closed because of coronavirus concerns, which helped to minimize the number of injuries from the tornado.
“There are 18 injuries in this event (Saturday) and two were admitted to the hospital. No fatalities, thank God,” Craighead County Judge Marvin Day said today.
Day did not provide the condition of the two hospitalized, but said the injuries were not life-threatening.
“The rescue effort is complete and we have started cleanup and recovery,” said Day, the county’s top executive officer.
The Jonesboro Municipal Airport and a Busch Agricultural Resources rice mill also suffered heavy damage when the tornado struck about 5 p.m. Day said.
The tornado also derailed a Union Pacific train.
Railroad spokeswoman Amanda Treiber said that about 112 cars derailed, releasing an undisclosed flammable liquid and paint that Union Pacific said was not hazardous. Trieber said the train crew was not injured. Workers cleaned the site and train operations resumed about 9 a.m. local time today.
An area from the mall eastward beyond the airport was closed. A curfew was in effect for the community, Day said. Jonesboro, located about 70 miles (110 kilometers) northwest of Memphis, Tennessee, has a population of about 75,000.
In Oelwein, Iowa, a tornado tore off part of the wall of a 12-unit apartment building and damaged the siding of a second building in the complex. Police said no serious injuries were reported.
Apartment resident Jonathan Reinert said the storm damage left him without a place to stay during the coronavirus outbreak.
“I got no shelter in place now,” Reinert told the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier.
Oelwein is a city of about 6,000 residents that’s about 140 miles northeast of the state capital of Des Moines.
In northern Illinois, a tornado that touched down in rural Ogle County near the town of Oregon was on the ground for roughly 10 minutes, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Gino Izzi. No injuries were reported.
High winds and a possible tornado damaged homes in the southwestern Indiana town of Newburgh. One person was hospitalized for minor injuries, according to Warrick County Sheriff Mike Wilder.