At least six people were injured after a tornado ripped through downtown Jonesboro, Arkansas on Saturday, ripping entire walls off buildings, flattening homes, and leaving cars overturned. There was no immediate word on fatalities, but videos showed major damage to the area, with only piles of debris apparently left of some buildings.
Jonesboro Mayor Harold Perrin issued a 7 p.m. curfew for the entire city as authorities began assessing the damage and conducting search-and-rescue missions throughout the area. Police Chief Rick Elliott urged residents to remain indoors to avoid hazards while authorities clean up all the debris.
“We’ve already asked you to stay at home for this virus but we're really stressing to stay at home,” he was quoted saying by CNN.
Footage from the scene shared by local media outlets showed that the tornado had obliterated buildings and mangled vehicles; it was reportedly so powerful that it sent debris flying more than 4 miles high. Multiple grocery stores, restaurants, and a Best Buy were reportedly hit by the twister.
A National Weather Service spokesman told The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that he detected “quite a bit” of destruction from the tornado on social media in both Jonesboro and Paragould.
“This is a very life threatening situation right now,” Paul Dellegatto, Fox 13’s meteorologist, said in a live stream as the violent tornado was seen on video roaring through the area. “Get in your tornado safe spot immediately. This is businesses, this is homes. This is a major tornado. Look at the size of that debris being wafted. This is as dire of a situation that we could have,” another meteorologist said.
The tornado destroyed numerous houses and also reportedly derailed a train. It also struck Jonesboro Municipal Airport, according to the Democrat-Gazette.
Rep. Rick Crawford (R-AR), who represents the first congressional district that includes the affected areas, said on Twitter that his family members and staff are safe. “The video and pictures are devastating,” he added. “Reports of some trapped in buildings along the path. Please pray for those assisting and aiding those who have been hurt. Our hospitals are responding too.”