Communities face widespread devastation after major hurricanes tear through the South and Midwest

(CNN) Devastated communities across the South and Midwest picked up the pieces and dug through the rubble Sunday. Severe storms and hurricanes Leveling neighborhoods and killing at least 22 people.

An outbreak of tornadoes swept the country on Friday, bringing more than 50 tornado reports in at least seven states, including Arkansas and Tennessee, where several deaths were reported. The tornado crushed homes and businesses, tore roofs off buildings, uprooted trees and sent vehicles flying.

There were more than 200 people inside Apollo Theater in Belvidere One person died and dozens were injured after its roof collapsed in northern Illinois on Friday, a city fire chief said.

In Wynne, Arkansas, the storm was so powerful that it completely peeled the turf off a high school football field.

At least seven people were killed when two back-to-back storms hit McNairy County, Tennessee, where officials were searching for collapsed buildings Saturday evening.

“We have dead people in the western part of the county and dead people in the eastern part of the county,” McNary County Sheriff Guy Buck told CNN, describing a powerful storm cutting through the entire county.

Deaths were reported in several states, including four killed in Illinois; three dead in Sullivan, Indiana; and four in Wynne, Arkansas.

The governors of Indiana, Iowa, Illinois and Arkansas all declared emergency or disaster declarations in their states, helping to release immediate aid to affected counties.

Little Rock, Arkansas, sustained heavy damage but no casualties as of Saturday afternoon. Mayor Frank Scott Jr. said efforts are now focused on recovery and rebuilding.

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“It’s unbelievable to see, I mean, vehicles being blown up, structures being leveled,” the mayor said. “A lot of people weren’t in their homes, and if they had been, it would have been a massacre,” Scott Jr. told CNN.

The The National Weather Service said The EF-3 tornado had peak winds of 165 mph in Pulaski and Lonoke counties in Arkansas. The powerful tornado killed one person in North Little Rock and four in Wynne, about 100 miles east.

Nearly 2,600 structures in Little Rock were affected and about 50 people were sent to hospitals, according to the mayor.

In addition to leaving trails of destruction in several states, the storms knocked out power to affected communities, including more than 30,000 customers affected by outages in Arkansas. power cut. us.

Hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses were without power across the South and Northeast, including 134,000 in Pennsylvania and nearly 86,000 in Ohio. power cut. us.

The damaging weather is coming across the South and Midwest after a severe tornado-spawning storm swept across the Southeast, killing at least 26 people and leaving much to be destroyed. Rolling Fork, Mississippi, Just last week.

An aerial view of homes destroyed by a tornado in Little Rock, Arkansas, on Saturday.

Small town ‘basically cut in half’

After the severe weather moved through Vine, Arkansas, “the town was cut in half by damage from east to west,” said Mayor Jennifer Hobbs, who watched the twister approach from a distance.

“I don’t know how to put it into words. It was devastating. It’s a lot different to see it live than when it hits other communities on TV,” Hobbs said.

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Some homes in Wynne — home to about 8,000 residents — were completely crushed into piles of wood, while others had their roofs ripped off, exposing the interiors of storm-strewn homes, drone footage provided to CNN shows.

“We have a lot of families that are completely destroyed. No home, no belongings,” the mayor added.

Debbie Lowdermilk holds photos of herself reacting to seeing the destroyed school she owns in Sullivan, Indiana, the day after the tornado hit.

Early warning of storms saved lives, sheriff says

Janice Peterick and her husband, Donald Leipsic, were in their RV when they received a warning of an incoming tornado and rushed to their daughter’s home in Hohenwald, Tennessee, CNN affiliate. WTVF reported. Within minutes the hurricane hit.

As the storm roared outside, the family rushed and took shelter in the bathroom.

“We got her and the kids in the bathtub because it was supposed to be a safe place. And we all huddled because all the doors exploded. Double doors in the front, double doors in the back, all the glass and windows. Everything exploded at once,” Peterik said.

Peterick said the whole house shook. “You could actually feel it moving. Lifting up. That’s when we thought we were going,” she said.

In nearby McNairy County, where several deaths were reported, Sheriff Buck said the death toll could have been higher if residents had not heeded warnings and sought proper shelter.

“If it wasn’t for them, looking at the devastation we had, our death toll would have been in the hundreds,” Buck said. “The power of Mother Nature is something that cannot be underestimated,” he added.

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CNN’s Samantha Beach, Raja Razek, Andy Ross and Rebecca Rice contributed to this report.

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