The hardest-hit state was Tennessee, where officials said at least 25 people were killed across four counties. An outbreak of 23 tornadoes and counting was confirmed in the Centennial State by midday Sunday. In Kentucky and Arkansas, five fatalities were reported due to tornadic activity, while Mississippi saw one fatality. A tornado struck parts of Ohio, although no casualties had been accounted for as search efforts continued into the evening hours. Across Virginia, a few tornadoes touched down with minimal major destruction but kept emergency response personnel busy throughout Saturday night, assessing homes for damage through early Sunday morning. The National Weather Service issued severe thunderstorm watches and warnings up until Monday afternoon from Wisconsin down into Texas, including Missouri, Indiana, Louisiana, and Illinois, which also experienced varying levels of destruction over this weekend’s severe weather outbreak. Fortunately, there have yet to be any reports of injuries from states that are not listed above, meaning that everyone received enough warning regarding these deadly storms to evacuate safely, saving numerous lives.
States of emergency have been declared across the Midwest, with high winds and heavy rains making roadways impassible. The National Weather Service estimates some towns saw up to eight inches of rain in just a few hours, causing flash flooding that made it difficult for first responders to reach people trapped by the storm. In addition to damage caused by wind, at least 3 tornadoes touched down in the region. In Arkansas alone, an estimated 800 homes were damaged or destroyed by strong winds on Sunday night. Over 500 people reported being injured from the storm system’s impact that spanned from Texas to Illinois. The severe weather created havoc during one of the busiest travel weekends in American history, making it difficult for those trying to escape damaged areas or stranded travelers trying to return home.
The president also urged Americans to unite and help those affected by this disaster. “We must do all we can to comfort them when they are hurting, support state and local officials as they lead the recovery effort, and ensure that our fellow citizens have the resources needed to rebuild,” he said. In addition, Biden declared a major federal emergency in Texas late Tuesday night after governors Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick requested it. The declaration makes available more aid from FEMA for communities hit by severe weather events such as tornadoes, floods, ice storms, and blizzards. In his statement Wednesday morning outlining the federal government’s response efforts thus far—including White House staff being dispatched to Texas—Biden vowed that agencies like FEMA will remain on site for a long time to come: “Though today Texans faced unimaginable tragedy with these horrific storms tearing through their communities – I assure you that first responders are here with us now -and we will remain at your side until you emerge from this crisis.”