Communities in at least five states rushed early Saturday to assess damage from a series of powerful storms and tornadoes the night before that killed at least one person in an Arkansas nursing home, caused a roof to collapse on a Amazon building in Illinois and caused the collapse of Kentucky governor to declare a state of emergency.
A tornado struck the Monette Manor nursing home in Monette, Ark., Around 8:15 p.m. local time, prompting a huge response from police and emergency workers in the area, according to Marvin Day, judge of the Craighead County.
Search and rescue workers found one person who had died and five who had been seriously injured, Day said, correcting an earlier report that at least two people had died. Mr. Day said that other residential buildings in the area had also been damaged.
“It’s really heartbreaking,” he said.
Local news reports also showed that the roof of an Amazon warehouse had collapsed in Edwardsville, Ill., Attracting police officers and emergency workers.
Herbert Simmons, director of the St. Clair County Emergency Management Agency, said late Friday that local officials were responding to an “active scene” at the warehouse. “Right now, our concern is trying to catch people who are trapped,” he said, adding that he wasn’t sure how many people might be in the building.
A BBC reporter at the scene said around the same time that about 100 people were believed to be inside.
Governor JB Pritzker of Illinois he said on twitter that the State Police and emergency management officials were working with local officials and would continue to monitor the situation.
Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In Kentucky, Governor Andy Beshear’s official Twitter account said Friday night that there was declared a state of emergency and activated the Kentucky State Police and National Guard to help respond to “major tornado damage.”
Tornadoes are relatively small and short-lived weather events. Scientists cannot yet determine whether there is a link between climate change and the frequency or strength of tornadoes, in part because they have a limited data record.
Still, the researchers say that in recent years tornadoes appear to be occurring in large “clusters” and that a so-called tornado alley on the Great Plains, where most tornadoes occur, appears to be moving east.
At least five states were hit by tornadoes Friday night, including Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri and Arkansas, said Bill Bunting, chief of operations for the Storm Prediction Center, part of the National Weather Service.
Bunting said the tornadoes were part of the same weather system that was wreaking havoc in many parts of the country, causing substantial snowfall in parts of the upper Midwest and western Great Lakes.
The damage in Arkansas came after a strong electrical storm produced a tornado that swept through the region, according to the National Weather Service. At 9:17 p.m. local time, the storm was near Trumann, Ark., And was moving northeast at 55 miles per hour, bringing with it a quarter-size tornado and hail, the Weather Service said.
By Friday night, the Weather Service had issued a tornado warning for several counties in eastern Arkansas and southeastern Missouri.
“This is what we would call a tornado outbreak, where you have a storm system that produces a series of tornadoes over a large geographic area., ” Dan Pydynowski, AccuWeather senior meteorologist, said Friday.
But such a large and powerful system in December is highly unusual, and something the region usually sees in May or April.
“It’s certainly not unheard of,” he said of tornadoes at this time of year, “but having an outbreak of this magnitude, with so many tornado reports, is a bit unusual for this time of year.”
Temperatures in Arkansas and Kansas today were “spring weather,” Pydynowski said. The highs were in the ’70s and’ 80s. “It was unusually hot and there was humidity in place. And you had a strong cold front. These are the ingredients for the big storms in the spring, but not in mid-December, ”he said.
Tornado warnings were implemented overnight, and Pydynowski said he expected the storm system to move into Ohio, eastern Kentucky and eastern Tennessee..
“Remember, there are people affected by all these tornadoes,” Craig Ceecee, meteorologist and graduate student at Mississippi State University, he said on twitter Friday night while tracking tornadoes in Kentucky. “Communities are being hit hard. And we won’t know how bad it is until morning. We have to think and pray for those affected.
Mike Ives contributed to reporting.