A tornado ripped through Jonesboro, Arkansas on Saturday afternoon, triggering a citywide curfew after powerful winds overturned cars and demolished buildings, according to local NBC affiliate KAIT.
The National Guard is being deployed to help secure the area, the outlet reported. In addition to ravaging several homes and businesses, the storm caused a gas leak in east Jonesboro and partially destroyed a local mall. Many businesses were already closed or empty in response to the covid-19 outbreak, though no statewide stay-at-home order has been issued.
Local authorities are currently conducting search and rescue efforts, the city’s E-911 Director Jeff Presley told KAIT, and Jonesboro Mayor Harold Perrin issued a citywide curfew beginning at 7 p.m. ET.
“We got a lot to secure,” city spokesperson Bill Campbell told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. “This is a search-and-rescue mission being conducted across the city, and we are racing against the dark.”
Three people have been hospitalized with injuries, per the Gazette’s report. The winds were so intense, they derailed a nearby train at around 6 p.m. ET, according to the Arkansas Department of Transportation.
Videos and images shared on social media show the terrifying storm as it tears through Jonesboro, leaving flattened buildings in its wake and throwing debris nearly four miles into the air, according to reports from meteorologists. The twister grew so quickly, doubling in size just 15 seconds after touching down, that several videos came from residents directly beneath the storm as they attempted to find shelter or flee the scene.
The state’s lieutenant governor, Tim Griffin, called the devastation “heartbreaking” in a tweet Saturday. Arkansas Representative Rick Crawford also commented via Twitter, saying that the tornado went through “the heart of town.” Crawford also asked for prayers for the first responders there.
The National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center has issued a “Particularly Dangerous Situation” tornado watch for swaths of the Midwest through Saturday night. Some of the other states most at risk for severe winds and hail are Iowa, Missouri, and Illinois, according to CNN meteorologists.