More than half a million homes and businesses were without power as of midday on Saturday after storms and tornadoes swept across the US South and Midwest leaving a trail of destruction.
Ohio was one of the worst-hit states with about 200,000 people without power, according to PowerOutage.us.
At least 26 people have been killed as confirmed or suspected tornadoes in at least eight states destroyed homes and businesses, splintered trees and laid waste to neighbourhoods across a broad swath of the country. The dead included at least nine in one Tennessee county, four in the small town of Wynne, Arkansas, three in Sullivan, Indiana and four in Illinois.
Other deaths from the storms that hit Friday night into Saturday were reported in Alabama and Mississippi, along with one near Little Rock, Arkansas, where city officials said more than 2,600 buildings were in a tornado’s path.
Residents of Wynne, a community of about 8,000 people 50 miles (80 kilometres) west of Memphis, Tennessee, woke up on Saturday to find the high school’s roof shredded and its windows blown out. Huge trees lay on the ground, their stumps reduced to nubs. Broken walls, windows and roofs pocked homes and businesses.
Debris lay scattered inside the shells of homes and on lawns: clothing, insulation, toys, splintered furniture, a pick-up truck with its windows shattered.
Some survivors said they emerged from their homes to find buildings ripped apart, vehicles tossed around like toys, shattered glass and felled trees.
The National Weather Service said that tornado was a high-end EF3 (Enhanced Fujita Scale) twister with wind speeds up to 165mph (265kph) and a path as long as 25 miles (40 kilometres).
Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard. On Saturday, Sanders requested a major disaster declaration from President Joe Biden to support recovery efforts with federal resources.
It could take days to determine the exact number of tornadoes from the latest event, said Bill Bunting, chief of forecast operations at the Storm Prediction Center. There were also hundreds of reports of large hail and damaging winds, he said.
A threat of tornadoes and hail remained for the Northeast including in parts of Pennsylvania and New York.
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