Storm causes damage throughout Union County
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.
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.
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.