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Roof Collapse at Metal Concert in Illinois Kills 1, Injures
Storms have killed at least 32 people and injured dozens of others this weekend across numerous states, as another round of severe weather threatened the East.VideoMore than two dozen others were hospitalized after dangerous weather caused the roof of the Apollo Theater in Belvidere, Ill., to cave in.CreditCredit...Chris BryantBy Dan Simmons, Jessica Jaglois, Robert Chiarito, Farrah Anderson and

International News

Storms have killed at least 32 people and injured dozens of others this weekend across numerous states, as another round of severe weather threatened the East.


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More than two dozen others were hospitalized after dangerous weather caused the roof of the Apollo Theater in Belvidere, Ill., to cave in.CreditCredit…Chris Bryant

By Dan Simmons, Jessica Jaglois, Robert Chiarito, Farrah Anderson and Mitch Smith

BELVIDERE, Ill. — The room went dark. The roof crashed down. And as debris blew across the old theater packed with concertgoers, a powerful blow landed on the back of Gabriel Salas, leaving a gash that would need to be repaired with stitches.

“I didn’t know what happened,” said Mr. Salas, who said he followed the sounds of screaming and helped to pull bodies from rubble at the Apollo Theater in Belvidere, Ill., where hundreds had gathered to watch a metal concert on Friday night before an apparent tornado shredded the building. “I just felt like I needed to help. Like, do something.”

The scenes of distress in Belvidere, where one person died and dozens more were injured, have been part of a wide trail of suffering wrought by storms across a broad swath of the country this weekend — first the Midwest and South on Friday, and then the East on Saturday — that has left at least 32 people dead.

In McNairy County, Tenn., where nine people died, downed power lines choked roadways and some houses were gone. In rural Crawford County, Ill., where three people died, the sheriff told of rescuers digging people out of basements. And in the small city of Sullivan, Ind., the mayor described a landscape that looked like a war zone, with newly homeless residents who were still dazed. Five people died across Indiana, including three in Sullivan County, according to officials.

“There’s a lot of people that just don’t quite frankly know — they really don’t know what to do,” said Mayor Clint Lamb of Sullivan, population 4,200. Three people died in the storm in his county, and search-and-rescue efforts were ongoing on Saturday.

The storms on Friday night unleashed destruction across hundreds of miles of Middle America, from Mississippi and Alabama in the South to Illinois and Wisconsin in the North. The system was notable for its strength and its scope, said Jake Sojda, a meteorologist for AccuWeather, who said the system was a once-every-few-years event with two distinct “bull’s-eyes” — one centered on Illinois, another on Arkansas.

“Usually, you have the greatest risk really concentrated in one area,” Mr. Sojda said. “To have two separate areas that had such a significant risk for tornadoes — that is definitely more uncommon.”

It has already been a brutal spring in some of those states: Hours before the latest storms hit, President Biden was in Mississippi visiting survivors of severe weather that killed at least 26 people a week prior. On Saturday evening, a new round of storms was charging across the Mid-Atlantic region, knocking out power to thousands and killing one person in Sussex County, Del.


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At least four people died in Wynne, Ark., after a tornado hit. Credit…Lucy Garrett for The New York Times

Along the path of Friday’s storms, residents recounted harrowing experiences and officials continued to announce additional deaths. In Wynne, a small Arkansas city where at least four people died, Kevin Jumper raced down his street as the storm neared, urging his neighbors, some of whom live in houses without basements, to take refuge in his basement.

Gary Mitchusson credited Mr. Jumper with saving his 81-year-old mother, who took her neighbor up on the basement invitation shortly before the storm severely damaged her own home.

“She said he was running up and down the street beating on doors and yelling at people there was a tornado coming,” Mr. Mitchusson said. “This man saved some folks’ lives.”

Jared Wooten was among the roughly 16 people who took refuge in Mr. Jumper’s basement. After the storm passed — “It’s like the oxygen got sucked out of the air,” Mr. Wooten recounted, and “you could hear basically everything outside breaking” — he realized his own house had been destroyed.

“It’s awful. We have nowhere to go. Our kids have nowhere to go,” Mr. Wooten said as chain saws whirred in the distance. “We had our whole life here basically,” he added. “It’s all just gone now.”

Elsewhere in Wynne, Janie Fisher rode out the storm in the walk-in closet of the home she had lived in for 40 years.

“We could hear the wind and everything trying to get under the door,” Ms. Fisher said. “We had glass coming in on us, dirt, everything.”

She made it out safely. But trees crashed through her windows, her car was destroyed and the front of her house was gone.

About 100 miles away in the Arkansas capital of Little Rock, where officials said more than 50 people were injured, and where damaged cars had been left in debris-strewn parking lots, David Hadidi was also taking stock of the damage. Rocks and glass littered the showroom of his Persian rug store, and sunlight was shining through gaping holes in the roof. Some of his inventory, he said, would have to be discarded.

“Insurance says you can’t sell rugs with glass,” Mr. Hadidi said, “no matter how much you clean them.”


A neighborhood that was destroyed in Sullivan, Ind.Credit…AJ Mast for The New York Times

In Sullivan, about a 90-minute drive southwest of Indianapolis, friends and family of the owners of South Sullivan Liquors were trying to salvage bottles from the store’s now-exposed walls on Saturday.

The scope of the damage across the city was daunting. Chief Greg Clark of the Madison Township Fire Department, one of many agencies assisting in Sullivan, said that he had been working on one street where “nothing left was livable.”

“We talked to a few residents out there that were just trying to search to see personal belongings, looking for pictures, things like that,” Chief Clark said.

In Adamsville, Tenn., in a county where officials reported seven deaths, Van Vansandt said residents had gathered in the yards of those who had been most affected. Two other deaths were later reported in the county, raising the death toll in the area to nine, according to the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency. At the Church of Christ, where Mr. Vansandt is a minister, volunteers were distributing food to survivors, who were coming to terms with how their lives had changed.

People saw their houses, cars, yards and trees damaged, Mr. Vansandt said. But, he added, “They’re just thankful to be here.”

About 500 miles to the north in Belvidere, Ill., a city of 25,000 people near the Wisconsin state line, officials and residents were struggling to making sense of the destruction in their downtown, where the marquee of the Apollo Theater had crashed onto State Street and a hole was visible in the building’s roof.

The theater, a Belvidere landmark for more than a century, had been bustling on Friday night, with several metal bands scheduled to perform, including Crypta, a Brazilian death metal band that had just finished a set when the venue announced that the show would be paused for half an hour because of the dangerous weather raging outside.

A few minutes later, the roof caved in.

“Initially, I was confused because it felt like an earthquake, and I was thinking, ‘Why would there be an earthquake right now?’” said Chris Bryant, an audience member who narrowly escaped injury.

Christina Johnson, who was looking forward to a performance later in the night by the band Morbid Angel, said theater employees had been trying to hurry concertgoers into the basement in the minutes before the tornado hit.

Ms. Johnson said she had been standing by a merchandise table when she watched the roof fall in.

“I saw people lifting the roof off of people, and I saw people getting dragged out,” she said.

Dispatch audio showed rescue crews scrambling to reach the scene, where the reports grew progressively more dire. A collapse with people inside, the dispatcher said at first. People stuck in the basement, she added a few minutes later. Ambulances radioed that they were taking patients to the hospital, sometimes multiple people at a time. In all, 40 people were injured.

With rescue crews responding from across three counties, and with some ambulances making repeat trips from the hospital to the theater, officials said concertgoers assisted with some of the early rescue efforts.

“They acted quickly to remove debris from people,” said Dan Zaccard, the county emergency management director.

He said the one man who died, a 50-year-old found wearing a concert T-shirt, had been pulled out of the wreckage by bystanders.


Cleanup crews removing debris after severe weather damaged the Apollo Theater in Belvidere Ill.Credit…Jim Vondruska for The New York Times

Dan Simmons and Robert Chiarito reported from Belvidere, Ill.; Jessica Jaglois reported from Wynne, Ark.; Farrah Anderson reported from Sullivan, Ind.; and Mitch Smith reported from Chicago. Gwen Moritz in Little Rock, Ark., Neelam Bohra, Mike Ives, Joshua Needelman, McKenna Oxenden, Eduardo Medina, Jesus Jiménez and Cindy Wolff contributed reporting.