The Jonesboro television affiliate KAIT wrote that the mall and numerous nearby homes were “destroyed” and that two damaged planes at the airport “will require heavy machinery in order to move.”
Among the homes destroyed was that of Jared Burks, a physician treating patients infected with covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. A photo of Burks, who has been living apart from his wife and son Zeke, separated between a glass door, had gone viral before the twister. A GoFundMe effort since the storm has raised more than $30,000 to help the family.
The National Weather Service had issued a tornado warning at 4:47 p.m. for Jonesboro, offering 13 to 14 minutes of lead time. A tornado watch had been posted for much of eastern Arkansas just after 2 p.m.
The Jonesboro storm intensified rapidly as it moved into the area, evolving from a relatively small twister to a large, dangerous tornado in under a minute.
Additional tornadoes were reported in northeastern Arkansas near Amagon and Caldwell.
Video of the Jonesboro twister featured its deafening roar and displayed power flashes and large amounts of debris lofted into the air. Radar suggested that the debris was lofted more than four miles high, or more than 20,000 feet.
The height to which the debris was flung and the enormity of the twister in video footage suggest the tornado was at least an EF-3 on the 0-to-5 scale for tornado intensity.
Social media imagery of the tornado’s aftermath showed major damage in the area, including blown-out windows and flattened structures.
At the heavily damaged mall, Arkansas Online wrote that a Barnes and Noble “was gutted,” while the Dillard’s, Best Buy, and Bed, Bath and Beyond stores also were damaged.
The tornado was captured live as it raced through northeastern Arkansas by the Weather Channel and KAIT.
While the Jonesboro tornado appeared to be Saturday’s most destructive, the Weather Service had issued tornado watches and warnings across several Midwestern states.
In addition to several reports of tornadoes in eastern Arkansas, the Weather Service received multiple tornado confirmations in Illinois and Iowa.
In all, the Weather Service had logged nearly 200 reports of severe weather, taking into account tornadoes, hail and damaging winds.
Below, see more video of the Jonesboro tornado.