Storm causes dam­age through­out Union County

El Dorado News-Times - - Front Page - By Cait­lan But­ler Staff Writer

Fri­day’s storms caused dam­age through­out Union County, South Arkansas and North Louisiana, in­clud­ing de­struc­tion from strong winds.

Union County Sher­iff Ricky Roberts re­ported an ac­ci­dent on High­way 82. A tree fell into the road and caused an 18-wheeler to top­ple over, he said. State po­lice re­sponded to the ac­ci­dent, but Roberts said that no one was hurt.

An­other car hit a tree on Three Creeks Road, Roberts said, how­ever the driver was un­harmed.

Top­pled and up­rooted trees could be seen through­out the county, in­clud­ing on Law­son Road and Nick Springs Road.

HOPE Land­ing CEO Kristi Low­ery said that a tor­nado ap­peared to have moved through the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s cam­pus, up­root­ing trees. One of the trees fell through care­tak­ers’ Martin and Elaine Por­tillo’s house on the prop­erty.

Low­ery said that the cou­ple re­ceived the Na­tional Weather Ser­vice’s Tor­nado Warn­ing alerts on their cell phones and were al­most out the door when the tree fell through their bed­room.

“We were more afraid for the kids than any­thing else,” Elaine said. Two of the cou­ples’ grand­chil­dren were stay­ing with them when the storm hit. They were able to take shel­ter in a Hope Land­ing barn.

The Fair­crest com­mu­nity took a heavy beat­ing dur­ing the storm. Vickey Wil­liams, who lives on Peace Road, said that at about two o’clock Satur­day morn­ing, she heard from a friend that tor­nado sirens were sound­ing in El Do­rado. She and her hus­band took shel­ter and waited for the storm to pass from their bath­room.

“And then I heard a big sonic boom!” she said. A tree had fallen through their home and caused se­vere struc­tural dam­age to her kitchen and din­ing room. Also, a work­shop was dam­aged and trees were up­rooted through­out their ap­prox­i­mately six acres of prop­erty.

“My yard looks like a war zone,” Wil­liams said. The dam­age made the fam­ily’s home un­liv­able and they will be stay­ing in a ho­tel un­til the dam­age can be as­sessed.

On Mount Union Road, Karl and Kim Ni­chols had se­vere dam­age to their prop­erty as well. A work­shop in their yard was ripped apart, trees were up­rooted and their tram­po­line was lifted by the wind and dropped onto their house. The house’s only dam­age was to the un­der­pin­nings, she said, how­ever, the dam­aged work­shop is vi­tal to her on­line busi­ness.

Kim said that around 12:30 Satur­day morn­ing, as she worked in her craft stu­dio, it be­came still out­side, prompt­ing Karl to walk out to check the weather.

“About that time, he [came] back in­side and he said ‘Kim, the wind is re­ally pick­ing up.’” Kim said that dur­ing light­en­ing flashes, Karl could see the winds swirling above him, like a tor­nado. The cou­ple took shel­ter in their bath­room and were phys­i­cally un­harmed.

She said that a neigh­bor’s house was also dam­aged, with a tree fall­ing through the man’s bed­room. She said that the tree fell on him, but he was un­hurt and man­aged to es­cape the wreck­age.

Kim said that she thinks the cause for the dam­age was a re­cent tree clear­ing project that took place along High­way 167. She says that in pre­vi­ous years, the trees along the road of­fered pro­tec­tion from strong winds and tor­na­does, but since the trees are gone, her home is ex­posed.

“At the end of last year, they started that clear cut­ting over there on the pipe­line on 167, right past Fair­crest store. And I told them … I said ‘They’re screw­ing up, be­cause now we have noth­ing to pro­tect us.’ And here we are,” she said.

The Red Cross of­fered as­sis­tance to the Ni­chols, as did their neigh­bors in Fair­crest.

“Thank God for good friends,” Kim said.

As of press time Satur­day, the Na­tional Weather Ser­vice could not con­firm whether a tor­nado had touched down in Union County. Due to the ex­ten­sive dam­age in the ArkLaTex area, they were un­able to send a scout­ing team to Union County to as­sess the dam­age on Satur­day.

Chris Was­son, cus­tomer ser­vice man­ager for En­tergy Arkansas, Inc., said that as of late af­ter­noon Satur­day, just over 1,100 cus­tomers in Union County were with­out power. Was­son said that restora­tion of ser­vice should be ex­pected by to­mor­row, though he was un­able to give an ex­act time that the work should be com­pleted by.

Con­trib­uted Photo

Storm dam­age: A tree fell through Hope Land­ing care­tak­ers’ Martin and Elaine Por­tillo’s home early Satur­day morn­ing. The cou­ple was at home with two of their grand­chil­dren when the storm hit. They were able to take shel­ter in Hope Land­ing’s barn af­ter the tree fell into their home. Read how the city tended to dam­age on 7A.

Pho­tos by Ter­rance Arm­stard/News-Times

Tree: A tree fell through the roof of the home of Mark and Vickey Wil­liams. The Fair­crest res­i­dents re­ceived dam­age to their prop­erty af­ter strong winds top­pled most of the trees on the cou­ple’s nearly six acres of land.

The re­mains of a 2018 Ford F-150 (left) crushed by a fallen tree in the yard of Karl and Kim Ni­chols is part of prop­erty dam­age the fam­ily sus­tained dur­ing the storm. Right, An Amer­i­can Red Cross Dis­as­ter Relief truck trav­els through­out the Fair­crest com­mu­nity af­ter many of it res­i­dents sus­tained dam­aged to their prop­erty af­ter a storm top­pled trees and caused an elec­tri­cal out­age.

A tree top­pled over by strong winds fell atop the home of Fair­crest res­i­dents Mark and Vickey Wil­liams. Right, Fair­crest res­i­dent Kim Ni­chols in­spects dam­age done to her prop­erty af­ter a storm pro­duc­ing strong winds top­pled sev­eral trees on her prop­erty.

Wind dam­age:

Crushed:

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