At least seven people were killed as tornado-spawning storms ripped through the South and the Midwest Friday, multiple outlets reported.
“Chaos, absolute chaos,” Belvidere Police Chief Shane Woody said, describing the scene of a roof and marquee collapse during a sold-out show at the Apollo Theatre in northern Illinois, near Rockford.
“When officers are first on the scene, when the fire department and first responders get here, they do the best they can to control the chaos as much as possible. But ultimately, we go in, and ultimately try and find people, and save as many people as we possibly can – and bring them to safety as best as we can,” Chief Woody also said.
“I was in there within a minute before it came down, concert-goer Gabrielle Lewellyn told WTVO. “The winds, when I was walking up to the building, it went like from zero to a thousand within five seconds.”
The packed metal concert had reportedly been underway for less than an hour when the storm struck the century-old venue, killing at least one person and injuring dozens more.
Severe storms and tornadoes also struck other states Friday, including Arkansas, Indiana, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Mississippi, the New York Times reported.
“We will spare no resource to assist with response and recovery efforts for Arkansans impacted,” Arkansas Governor Sarah Sanders (R) tweeted Friday night. The The Natural State governor signed an executive order declaring a state of emergency after severe weather gutted part of Little Rock and other towns.
The city of Wynne in northeastern Arkansas was “cut in half by damage from east to west,” Wynne Mayor Jennifer Hobbs told CNN. At least two people died in the town with a population of about 8,274.
“Today has been a very hard day for the state of Arkansas,” Gov. Sanders said in a news conference. Sanders activated the National Guard to assist the Arkansas State Police and local law enforcement.
“Our message and our mission is really simple,” Sanders said. “The people come first and the paperwork will come second.”
The apparent tornado that devastated portions of West Little Rock may have traveled more than 40 miles, KTHV reported. The National Weather Service called the storms in Arkansas “catastrophic.”
Watch WLS-TV’s coverage of the roof collapse at the century-old Apollo Theater in Belvidere, Illinois below.
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