29 Mar Dr. Jon Cartu Publishes – Tornado Strikes Jonesboro, Ark., Injuring at Least 6,…
A tornado cut through the heart of Jonesboro, Ark., on Saturday evening, injuring at least six people and damaging a mall, local business and an airport, according to the authorities.
Mayor Harold Perrin of Jonesboro said the number of people known to have been injured could rise as the authorities continued to search damaged buildings.
He said the fact that many residents were staying home because of the coronavirus pandemic might have kept the number of injuries low. As the tornado sliced from south to north, it damaged the Mall at Turtle Creek, the Jonesboro Municipal Airport, an Anheuser-Busch granary and local shops.
Bill Campbell, a city spokesman, said two-thirds of the mall and several hangars at the airport were destroyed.
A number of cars on a freight train were knocked over, and hazardous materials might have leaked, he said. Several vehicles were also overturned and knocked into ditches, Mr. Campbell added.
“If we come through this without a loss of life, it will be a minor miracle,” he said.
A reporter for a local television station, KATV, said on Twitter that the tornado had destroyed the home of Dr. Jared Burks, who had been living apart from his wife and young son while treating coronavirus patients.
“We are all safe,” his wife, Alyssa Burks, wrote on Facebook. She said Dr. Burks had been at home, but that she and their son had been at her mother’s house.
Thousands of Facebook users had shared a photo of Dr. Burks and his son, pressing their hands toward each other on opposite sides of a glass door — a symbol of the sacrifices health care professionals have made as they fight the pandemic.
Mr. Perrin, the mayor, said the city had ordered a 7 p.m. curfew, to let emergency vehicles pass through the streets unimpeded and to discourage gawkers.
“Right now, we have a great amount of damage,” said Sally Smith, a spokeswoman for the Jonesboro Police Department, who added that officials from across northeast Arkansas had been summoned to assess the damage.
Mr. Perrin said the Arkansas National Guard was also helping.
“I am paying close attention to the report of a tornado hit in Jonesboro,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson wrote on Twitter. “I know there is property damage. Just praying all is safe.”
The Mall at Turtle Creek — which includes a Dillard’s, a JCPenney and a Target — had been temporarily closed because of the coronavirus, according to its website, although “essential stores and restaurants with exterior-facing entrances” had stayed open.
“There was severe damage to our shopping center and emergency services are on site,” said Lindsay Kahn, a spokeswoman for Brookfield Properties, which owns the roughly 700,000-square-foot mall. “We are very grateful that there are no reported casualties within our property. This is a devastating time for our community and our thoughts are with everyone impacted.”
Jonesboro, which is home to about 77,000 people, had sounded its 33 tornado sirens several minutes before the tornado struck, said Jeff Presley, the city’s E-911 director.
Said Said, the owner of Triple S Phone & Computer Repair, said he was just about to close up his shop when he heard the sirens blaring and saw debris flying outside.
“I was really scared,” he said. The power went out, and he sat down on the floor of his shop to record a video of the approaching tornado, he said.
“I was just praying nothing would happen to me or my store,” he said.
His shop was not damaged, he said, but several others nearby were, and windows of his car were broken. Later, he uploaded the video to his Facebook page; it shows electricity flashing at the base of a funnel cloud as it churns up debris outside his shop.
Rick Smith, a warning coordination meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Norman, Okla., said his son had been in Jonesboro when the tornado hit.
“He’s okay but there’s a lot of damage,” Mr. Smith wrote on Twitter. “So scary.”