Storms, Tornadoes Damage Homes, Businesses In Midwest, South

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 Sunday.

Tornadoes were spotted in Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin as thunderstorms swept through the area Saturday. High winds and a possible tornado were also reported in Indiana.

The National Weather Service said an EF3 tornado with winds of up to 140 mph (225 kph) struck Jonesboro, Ark., and an EF1 struck neighboring Greene County. An EF1 has wind speeds of 86-110 mph (138-110 kph).

Among the places that were hit was a mall in Jonesboro 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 22 injured, two hospitalized … but no one reported deceased,” city spokesman Bill Campbell said Sunday afternoon.

The injuries are not life threatening, Campbell said.

“The rescue effort is complete and we have started cleanup and recovery,” said County Judge Marvin 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. Sunday.

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.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Sunday he has signed a proclamation declaring the area a disaster and would travel to Jonesboro to tour the area.

“(To) see first-hand the damage that was done to the businesses and to give them confidence that we are working with local officials to have federal emergency support in place,” which the disaster declaration makes available, Hutchinson said.

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 150 miles (240 kilometers) northeast of the state capital of Des Moines.

The storms also destroyed multiple farm buildings and damaged at least two houses near Sherrill, Iowa and Potosi, Wisconsin. There were no injuries reported, but some livestock were killed when barns were knocked down at one farm.

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.