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Powerful storm rolls across central US, unleashing at least 19 tornadoes

By Derek Van Dam and Haley Brink, CNN Meteorologists

A powerful storm raced across the central US late Friday, unleashing at least 19 tornadoes in five states and causing widespread damage, according to officials.

At least two deaths in Arkansas were attributed to the wave of tornadoes.

One person was killed and several injured in Monette, Arkansas, after a tornado struck a nursing home, according to Craighead County Judge Marvin Day.

Local officials had previously said two people died, but Day said the local coroner has since determined there was only one death.

“Everyone has been taken out of the nursing home and is accounted for,” the town’s mayor Bob Blankenship said. “We have a triage center set up at the local school where people are being treated and others have been transported to local hospitals.”

Eight miles away in Leachville, one person was killed, Mississippi County Sheriff Dale Cook told CNN.

An adult female was “in a Dollar General store when the storm hit and they could not get out,” he said.

In Tennessee, several structures were damaged and an unknown number of people were trapped in Samburg, according to Union City Police Chief Karl Ullrich.

“It’s just a small community. It’s pretty well flattened,” Obion County Sheriff’s Office Dispatcher Judy Faulkner told CNN. Samburg is in the northwest portion of the state, north of Memphis.

In Illinois, an Amazon warehouse was damaged in Edwardsville, which is 24 miles east of St. Louis, Missouri.

“It’s devastating to see the amount of damage there and to know there were people inside when that happened,” Edwardsville Police Chief Michael Fillback told CNN affiliate KMOV on Saturday morning.

Fillback said police did not know how many people were in the building at the time of the collapse, nor how many people may still be trapped inside.

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker said he’d reached out to the Edwardsville mayor to offer assistance.

“My prayers are with the people of Edwardsville tonight, and I’ve reached out to the mayor to provide any needed state resources. Our @ILStatePolice and @ReadyIllinois are both coordinating closely with local officials, and I will continue to monitor the situation,” the governor said in a tweet.

In Kentucky, the state police warned of likely fatalities after “severe tornado events” across multiple counties. “While no fatalities have been confirmed at this time, loss of life is expected,” the agency tweeted late Friday night.

There was significant damage reported in Mayfield, a town of approximately 10,000 people. Photos from CNN affiliate WPSD showed damage to the Graves County Courthouse and adjoining jail.

Power outages across several states

Tornadoes were reported in Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, Kentucky and Illinois, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Storm Prediction Center.

Overall, more than 55 million people nationwide were at risk for severe storms Friday.

By early Saturday, at least 157,000 customers had lost power across six states, according to

“This dynamic, sprawling storm will impact more than half the country. It’s a classic clash of air masses,” said CNN meteorologist Gene Norman.

Earlier, tornado watches were issued for central and eastern Arkansas, southeastern Missouri, northwestern Mississippi, western Tennessee, western Kentucky, southern Illinois and southwestern Indiana, according to the Storm Prediction Center.

The watch was in effect until 11 p.m. CST and included Memphis, Tennessee; Little Rock, Arkansas; Paducah, Kentucky; and Evansville, Indiana.

A second tornado watch was issued Friday evening for portions of Missouri and Illinois. The watch is also in effect until 11 p.m. CST and includes St. Louis, Jefferson City and Springfield in Missouri and Springfield and Quincy in Illinois

By mid-evening Friday, five tornado watches stretched from northeastern Texas and eastern Oklahoma to central Tennessee and Kentucky. One of the newest watches includes Nashville and Louisville, Kentucky, and was in effect until 2 a.m. CST.

Winter returns for a large section of the US

Meanwhile, to the north of the weather system, snow was forecast for a large part of the country from the Intermountain West to the Upper Great Lakes through Saturday. Over 10 million Americans are under some form of winter weather alerts from this system.

The Minnesota State Patrol responded to 136 crashes prior to 4 p.m. on Friday, according to a tweet by the agency. Eight of those accidents were jackknifed semi-trucks. Thirteen were injury accidents.

The Twin Cities area is currently under a snow emergency.

Light snow fell Friday morning at Denver’s International Airport, meaning the area finally recorded its first measurable snow of the season, defined as a 10th of an inch or greater.

This brings an end to the record snow drought the city had been experiencing. Since 1882, the city had never made it into December without measurable snow. The previous record for latest measurable snow was November 21, 1934.

The city also went 232 consecutive days without measurable snow, the second-longest streak in recorded history. The record is 235 days: from March 5 to October 25, 1887.

The snow is expected to be light in Denver, with the forecast calling for around 1 inch of accumulation today, with higher tallies in the mountains to the West.

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CNN meteorologist Dave Hennen contributed to this story.

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