A tornado ripped through Jonesboro, Arkansas on Saturday afternoon, triggering a citywide curfew after strong winds toppled cars and ruined buildings, according to local NBC partner KAIT.
The National Guard is being deployed to secure the area, the outlet reported. In addition to the destruction of several homes and businesses, the storm caused a gas leak in East Jonesboro and partially destroyed a local shopping center. Many businesses were already closed or vacant in response to the Covid-19 outbreak, although no nationwide residence permit has been issued.
Local authorities are currently conducting search and rescue, the city director, E-911, Jeff Presley, told KAIT, and Jonesboro mayor Harold Perrin gave a curfew for the entire city at 7pm. ET.
“We have a lot to protect,” said city spokesman Bill Campbell the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. “This is a city-wide search and rescue mission, and we’re racing into darkness.”
According to the Gazette report, three people with injuries have been hospitalized. The winds were so strong they derailed a nearby train Bee around 6:00 PM ET, according to the Arkansas Department of Transportation.
Videos and images shared on social media show the terrifying storm as it rips through Jonesboro, leaving flattened buildings behind and throwing debris nearly six miles into the air, according to reports from meteorolOgists. The twister grew so fast, doubling in size just 15 seconds after landing, several videos of residents came directly under the storm trying to find shelter or escape the scene.
State Lieutenant Governor Tim Griffin called the devastation “heartbreaking” a tweet Saturday. Arkansas representative Rick Crawford has also responded via Twitter, say that the tornado went through ‘the heart of the city’. Crawford also asked for prayers for the first responders there.
The National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center released a “ Particularly Hazardous ” tornado watch for parts of the Midwest through Saturday night. Some of the other states most at risk of violent wind and hail are Iowa, Missouri and Illinois, according to CNN meteorologists.