Jonesboro Police Chief Rick Elliott said search and rescue crews were making their third and final sweep looking for anyone in need of assistance before focusing on cleanup.
Images posted on social media from the scene showed broken walls on the exterior of the mall, flattened commercial buildings, at least one heavily damaged house and debris scattered across parking lots.
One picture showed a mangled vehicle in the mall parking lot. At the local airport, at least one airplane was turned over and hangars were damaged.
The mayor ordered a 7 p.m. curfew for the city located about 130 miles northeast of Little Rock.
The storm moved across Jonesboro around 5 p.m., according to a video posted by the National Weather Service in Little Rock.
The police chief urged residents to stay home while debris is cleared out of roadways and other common areas.
“We’ve already asked you to stay at home for this virus but we’re really stressing to stay at home,” Elliott said.
Other tornadoes in Iowa
Other tornadoes struck Saturday, according to the weather service.
Tornado sightings were reported in Iowa in Black Hawk, Buchanan, Marshall Adams and Adair counties. The weather service map said power lines were knocked down and roofs blown off in Jackson County, Arkansas.
In a tweet, the weather service reported a funnel cloud with a brief tornado touchdown 6 miles southeast of Fontanelle moving northeast. No other details were available.
Severe weather had been forecast across the Midwest and Upper Mississippi River Valley on Saturday.
The states most at risk were Iowa, Missouri and Illinois. That’s where long-track, intense and multiple tornadoes could develop during the afternoon and continuing into the evening.
Overall, 70 million Americans faced the threat of severe weather, CNN meteorologist Derek Van Dam said.