Weather of­fi­cials say week­end storms spawned 11 tor­na­does in state

Two con­firmed near El Do­rado

El Dorado News-Times - - Front Page - Emily Walken­horst

The Na­tional Weather Ser­vice on Mon­day said 11 sus­pected tor­na­does touched down in Arkansas dur­ing se­vere weather last week­end.

The num­bers aren’t fi­nal, ac­cord­ing to Michael Brown, a me­te­o­rol­o­gist with the Na­tional Weather Ser­vice in North Lit­tle Rock. Some sus­pected tor­na­does may be down­graded as merely strong winds or the weather ser­vice may dis­cover new tor­nado dam­age this week.

The twisters formed through­out the state as part of a storm sys­tem that moved through Arkansas on Fri­day night. Wreck­age was not cat­a­strophic in any com­mu­nity and the wind speeds were on the lower end for tor­na­does, but the twisters blew de­bris onto county roads, dam­aged some build­ings and left some peo­ple white-knuckle driv­ing. No deaths have been re­ported.

Three tor­na­does touched down in Ash­ley County but there were no re­ported in­juries there, County Of­fice of Emer­gency Man­age­ment Co­or­di­na­tor Tawana Miller said.

“Other things can be re­paired, but we didn’t lose any­body,” she said.

The tor­na­does largely oc­curred in ru­ral or un­in­hab­ited places, less­en­ing the po­ten­tial dam­age. If a twister had gone through a sub­di­vi­sion or mo­bile home park, more dam­age of ripped off shin­gles and bro­ken win­dows would have been re­ported, Brown said.

The 11 sus­pected tor­na­does pushed the to­tal re­ported in the state for 2018 to 20, Brown said.

Two tor­na­does ap­pear to have been EF2 storms, eight were EF1 and one was an EF0, ac­cord­ing to Brown. None sur­passed 11.7 miles in length.

One of the EF2 tor­na­does was in Craw­ford County, near Moun­tain­burg, where Gov. Asa Hutchin­son toured Sun­day to sur­vey the dam­age. The other was in Ash­ley County, start­ing about four miles east of Cros­sett and trav­el­ing just more than four miles.

Miller said about six or seven struc­tures ex­pe­ri­enced some dam­age, mostly mi­nor ex­cept for one home that had a tree fall on it. Most of the wreck­age was done to trees, she said, al­though about three-fourths of the county’s res­i­dents lost power for a time Fri­day night into Satur­day.

Tor­na­does dam­aged sev­eral homes in neigh­bor­ing Union County, which had two tor­na­does, County Judge Mike Loftin said. A cou­ple of trees fell on homes, and two fam­i­lies are dis­placed from liv­ing in them, Loftin said.

County work­ers have cleared de­bris off of road­ways but still need to pick it up off of the sides of county roads, he said.

Jeff Turner, Se­bas­tian County Of­fice of Emer­gency Man­age­ment di­rec­tor, counted more dam­age.

He said 53 struc­tures sus­tained dam­age from Lavaca on east to the Franklin County line. That in­cluded mi­nor dam­age to sin­gle-fam­ily houses and chicken house roofs that were blown away en­tirely.

The weather ser­vice es­ti­mated the EF1 tor­nado started 4.3 miles east of the town and trav­eled 5.6 miles just be­fore 6 p.m. Fri­day.

Some power lines fell and de­bris blew onto roads, Turner said.

Re­gard­less of how se­vere the tor­nado was

clas­si­fied, Turner said the weather posed a pre­car­i­ous sit­u­a­tion for peo­ple even out­side of its path.

Turner was driv­ing his Chevy Ta­hoe from his Fort Smith of­fice to his Green­wood of­fice when he found him­self caught up in the storm on Main Street in Green­wood.

He al­ways tells peo­ple to stay in­side dur­ing storms like Fri­day’s. And yet, “I was ac­tu­ally out in it,” he said.

“It was very un­nerv­ing to be in a ve­hi­cle out in the storm,” Turner said. “The wind and hail were com­ing side­ways at me.”

Far­ther east, a sus­pected EF0 tor­nado touched down near Op­pelo in Con­way County. One res­i­dent said trees were down through­out the town.

The tor­na­does have also con­cerned peo­ple only think­ing about liv­ing in places they might have touched down in.

Brown said Mon­day morn­ing he’d al­ready got­ten two phone calls from peo­ple ask­ing if a twister trav­eled through places they were look­ing to buy a home. But he told them, “I wouldn’t say there’s a part of Arkansas where you don’t get tor­na­does.”

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