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Boston Herald
Boston Herald
1 Apr 2023
Flint McColgan

NextImg:Tornadoes kill at least 21 across Midwest and South

Tornadoes and the storms that created them wrecked havoc on the South and Midwest Friday night, killing at least 21 people in a path of destruction that included Arkansas’ capital city and a roof collapse in a packed concert venue in Illinois.

The dead included seven in one Tennessee county, four in the small town of Wynne, Arkansas, three in Sullivan, Indiana, and four in Illinois.

The music venue was the Apollo Theater in Belvidere, about 70 miles northwest of downtown Chicago, where the Boston-based metal band Revocation was booked to play Friday night with Morbid Angel, Crypta, and Skeletal Remains.

Dan Zaccard, the Emergency Management director for Boone County, Illinois, said in a press conference Saturday that his office issued a tornado warning siren at 7:24 p.m., by 7:47 p.m., the call came in that the roof had collapsed. The area looked like a disaster, he said, with “numerous buildings damaged, trees down, vehicles flipped, a lot of damage.”

One 51-year-old man died in the collapse, while another 40 of the 260 or so attendees were injured, two with life-threatening injuries.

“They dragged someone out from the rubble, and I sat with him and I held his hand and I was (telling him), ‘It’s going to be OK.’ I didn’t really know much else what to do,” concertgoer Gabrielle Lewellyn told WTVO-TV.

Revocation did not respond to the Herald’s request for additional comment on social media, but they did update their Instagram page late Saturday afternoon.

“Our thoughts go out to everyone injured in the natural disaster that took place last night in Belvidere and we send our deepest condolences to the family and friends of the person that tragically lost their life at the venue,” the band wrote, adding that a show scheduled for Saturday night in Joliet had been postponed until Wednesday.

Crews worked Saturday to clean up around the Apollo, with forklifts pulling away loosely hanging bricks. Business owners picked up shards of glass and covered shattered windows.

Across and down the street from the Apollo stood a mural with an oversized black-and-white photograph of schoolchildren battling strong winds and rain after an especially violent tornado ravaged the rural town on April 21, 1967, killing 24.

In Crawford County, Illinois, three people were killed and eight others injured after a tornado hit around New Hebron, Bill Burke, the county board chair, said.

Sheriff Bill Rutan said 60 to 100 families were displaced.

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.

That tornado was not far from where three people were killed in Indiana’s Sullivan County, about 95 miles southwest of Indianapolis.

Sullivan Mayor Clint Lamb said at a news conference that an area south of the county seat of about 4,000 “is essentially unrecognizable right now” and that several people were rescued from rubble overnight. There were reports of as many as 12 people injured, he said, and search-and-rescue teams combed damaged areas.

“Quite frankly, I’m really, really shocked there isn’t more as far as human issues,” he said, adding that recovery “is going to be a very long process.”

In the Little Rock area, at least one person was killed and more than 50 were hurt, some critically, authorities said.

The National Weather Service said the tornado was a high-end EF3 twister with wind speeds up to 165 mph and a path as long as 25 miles.

Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard to help local responders.

The storms struck just hours after President Joe Biden visited the Mississippi community of Rolling Fork, where tornadoes last week destroyed parts of town.

Tornadoes also caused damage in eastern Iowa, and broke windows on cars and buildings northeast of Peoria, Illinois.

It could take days to determine the exact number of tornadoes, 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.

“That’s a quite active day,” he said. “But that’s not unprecedented.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.