At least three people are dead and dozens have been hospitalized after a tornado outbreak moved through Arkansas on Friday night, local officials told ABC News.
More than 28 million people across the South and Midwest are under a tornado watch, according to the National Weather Service. Dozens of tornadoes were reported across Arkansas, Mississippi, Iowa, Tennessee, Illinois and Wisconsin, but the exact number of confirmed tornadoes has yet to be verified.
Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders declared a state of emergency due to Friday’s severe weather and activated the National Guard to assist state and local law enforcement. She said there was “significant damage” in Central Arkansas due to the storm.
“Arkansans must continue to stay weather aware as storms are continuing to move through,” Sanders tweeted.
At least one person has died in Pulaski County, Arkansas, Madeline Roberts, a spokeswoman for the county’s emergency management agency, told ABC News. The death was reported in the city of North Little Rock.
Meanwhile, more than 50 people across the county have been hospitalized, with that number expected to rise, said Roberts. She did not have information on the conditions of those people.
Two people have also been pronounced dead in the northeastern Arkansas city of Wynne, which took a direct hit from a tornado tonight. Miles Kimble, the coroner of neighboring St. Francis County, who was assisting in Wynne, confirmed the death toll to ABC News.
A tornado emergency had been issued for metro Little Rock, Arkansas, Friday afternoon, due to the threat of a damaging tornado and quarter-sized hail.
Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. said 24 people have been hospitalized and that he is “not aware of any fatalities in Little Rock at this time.”
“Property damage is extensive and we are still responding,” he tweeted.
Capt. Jacob Lear-Sadowsky with the Little Rock Fire Department told ABC News earlier there were a “significant” number of injuries from the storm.
One hospital in the area told ABC News that it is on standby for a potential “influx of patients” but did not have a number of those admitted yet.
Damage is centered in West Little Rock, where “multiple structures,” both commercial and residential, have been destroyed, Lear-Sadowsky said. Power lines and trees are also downed and cars have been flipped over due to the storm.
As the powerful supercell moved eastward, a “confirmed large and extremely dangerous tornado” was located around 5:13 p.m. local time near Earle, Arkansas, west of Memphis, the NWS said, calling it a “life-threatening situation.” A “catastrophic” tornado also moved through the metro area of Little Rock, Arkansas, the NWS confirmed.
Significant damage is being reported in nearby Wynne, Arkansas, located roughly 50 miles west of Memphis. The city’s mayor, Jennifer Hobbs, told ABC News they have experienced “major damage” and that she believes people are trapped but could not estimate a number.
“We’re still trying to get crews out and make sure we don’t have people trapped and continue to assess the damage,” said Hobbs, who said the tornado split the city of more than 8,000 people in half.
“We had no idea that it would be this much damage that we’re seeing right now at this point,” Latricia Woodruff, a spokesperson for the Arkansas Division of Emergency Management, told ABC News Live Prime on Friday about the tornado activity in the state. “There’s a lot of homes that have been damaged, other structures. We heard about a fire station here in Little Rock that had some damage to it as well.”
A tornado emergency has been issued north of Memphis amid multiple severe weather threats for the region.
The tornado emergencies come as rare high-risk tornado warnings were issued Friday for parts of six states — Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee — as a major storm leaves millions in the Heartland at risk for severe weather, including potentially violent, long-track tornadoes.
A tornado watch has been issued for parts of Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky and Michigan until 3 a.m. ET Saturday, as the threat for damaging storms with tornadoes and strong winds continues into the early morning hours.
Among those at risk for tornadoes is an area that was hit by deadly storms last weekend. President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden visited one of those locations — Rolling Fork, Mississippi — on Friday.
“Jill and I are here to show our support,” Biden said during remarks in the town on Friday, standing amid the destruction. “I know there’s a lot of pain and it’s hard to believe in a moment like this, this community’s going to be rebuilt, and rebuilt back better than it was before.”
Nearly two dozen people were killed in the storms.
In addition to tornadoes, damaging winds and huge hail are possible with Friday’s storms. The expanse of this severe weather stretches from Lufkin, Texas, to Milwaukee and as far east as Nashville, Tennessee and Cincinnati. The storm system moves into the Northeast on Saturday with some severe weather possible for Pennsylvania and upstate New York and even northern New Jersey. Damaging winds will be the biggest threat for the Northeast.
There is a wintry part to this storm, with blizzard warnings issued for South Dakota and Minnesota, where more than half a foot of snow and 45 mph wind gusts are possible. Whiteout conditions are expected. A winter storm warning stretches from Nebraska to Minneapolis and into Wisconsin and Michigan, where more than a foot of snow is possible.
ABC News’ Jianna Cousin, Matt Foster and Robinson Perez contributed to this report.