2 dead in Ark. tornado; storms cause roof collapses at Ill. Amazon warehouse
Dozens of emergency vehicles responded to an MCI at the Amazon center near Edwardsville, Ill., following severe storms
By Robert Jablon and Jim Salter
MONETTE, Ark. — At least two people were killed Friday night when a reported tornado ripped through an Arkansas nursing home, and emergency crews in southern Illinois were also responding to reports of injuries at an Amazon warehouse after a roof collapsed amid storms there.
Craighead County Judge Marvin Day told The Associated Press that a tornado struck the Monette Manor nursing home at about 8:15 p.m., trapping 20 people inside as the building collapsed. About 90 minutes later the building had been cleared and everyone initially believed to have been inside had been accounted for, but Day said crews still must search the debris for possible additional victims.
"It looks like it's pretty much destroyed," Day said of the building. "... It happens quick but apparently there was a little bit of time with tornado sirens going off." Some residents were found in the basement "and were prepared for this," he said.
Five people had serious injuries, and a few others had minor ones, he said. The nursing home has 86 beds.
Day cautioned residents to shelter in place.
"The worst thing to do would be to leave," Day said.
Footage from St. Louis TV stations showed dozens of emergency vehicles at the Amazon center near Edwardsville, Illinois, about 25 miles west of St. Louis. It wasn't immediately clear if or how many people were hurt, but the Collinsville, Illinois, Emergency Management Agency on Facebook called it a "mass casualty incident." One official told KTVI-TV that up to 100 people were believed to be in the building, working the night shift, at the time of the collapse.
The Belleville News-Democrat reported that the Amazon fulfillment center in Edwardsville opened with two warehouses in 2016, with 1.5 million square feet of space. The warehouses are used to store items until they are shipped to mail-order customers.
A photo in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch showed a large portion of the wall and roof of the massive Amazon warehouse completely collapsed.
It wasn't immediately clear if the damage to the Amazon warehouse was caused by straight-line storms or a tornado, but a large tornado was reported in the Edwardsville area at about the time the building was damaged. The National Weather Service office near St. Louis issued reports of "radar-confirmed tornadoes" in the Edwardsville area.
In fact, workers at the weather service office themselves had to take shelter as another tornado passed near their office in Weldon Spring, Missouri, about 30 miles west of St. Louis. That twister was suspected of destroying several homes in the Missouri towns of New Melle and Defiance, leaving at least three people injured, one of them hospitalized with serious injuries. Rescue crews worked into the night sifting through damage to make sure there were not additional injuries.
The collapse came as a strong thunderstorm, and possibly a tornado, ripped through the St. Louis area. Winds of up to 70 mph were reported in parts of St. Charles and St. Louis counties in Missouri. At least three St. Charles County residents were hospitalized and several homes in the area near Augusta, Missouri, were damaged.
"The safety and well-being of our employees and partners is our top priority right now," Amazon spokesperson Richard Rocha said in a written statement Friday night. "We're assessing the situation and will share additional information when it's available."
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said on Twitter that Illinois State Police and disaster officials were coordinating with local officials in Edwardsville, and he was monitoring the situation.
"My prayers are with the people of Edwardsville tonight, and I've reached out to the mayor to provide any needed state resources," Pritzker said.
The storms in Illinois and Arkansas were among several places in the Midwest that reported tornadoes spotted or on the ground.
The storms caused additional damage as they tracked through Tennessee and into Kentucky. Several buildings collapsed in the southern Kentucky community of Mayfield, said Sarah Burgess, a trooper with the Kentucky State Police in Mayfield.
Burgess said there were no reported deaths. She said several people were trapped inside a damaged candle factory in Mayfield.
Photos posted to social media from Mayfield showed uprooted trees, a courthouse steeple sheered off and business windows blown out in the storms.
Jablon reported from Los Angeles; Salter reported from O'Fallon, Missouri. Associated Press journalists John Raby in Charleston, West Virginia, and Jeff McMurray in Chicago contributed to this report.