An EF1 tornado touched down near Scott in southeastern Pulaski County on Saturday morning, destroying homes and injuring two people, a spokesman for the National Weather Service said.
Scott Fire Chief Ron Myers said five structures were destroyed — four mobile homes and a farm shop.
The tornado spun out of a larger line of storms that swept across the central United States.
The storms left at least 13,000 customers temporarily without electricity in Arkansas, downing trees and power lines as it swept through, according to meteorologist Dennis Cavanaugh with the National Weather Service office in North Little Rock.
The tornado carved a path of destruction 6.4 miles through the rural area, Cavanaugh said.
It spawned from a “bow echo” storm — a storm that is linear but slightly curved. Whether such a storm will produce a tornado is hard to predict, Cavanaugh said, leaving forecasters and meteorologists with little time to issue tornado warnings.
“They are notorious for straight-line wind damage,” Cavanaugh said of bow echo storms. “But every once in a while, those winds rotate and become tornadic.”
Cavanaugh said three tornado warnings were issued at various times Saturday for areas around North Little Rock and Lonoke, southeast Little Rock and parts of Prairie County. Storm damage was reported in Logan, Monroe, Lafayette and Prairie counties.
In Johnson County, the Clarksville School District issued a statement that winds had toppled a light pole at the football field during a soccer match. A student from the opposing team and a referee were injured, the statement said.
Although the only tornado Saturday was confirmed in Scott, it is likely that more will be identified today upon further review and surveys by weather service personnel, Cavanaugh said.
Arkansas Department of Emergency Management spokesman Dan Noble said 13 counties reported damage from Saturday’s severe weather. The only reported injuries were the two near Scott. No fatalities were reported as of Saturday afternoon, he said.
The two people were taken to a hospital after being injured near the Lonoke County line in southern Pulaski County. Noble said their injuries were not considered life-threatening.
Noble said that after the tornado, firefighters cut through downed trees and debris and began a search for victims in the area, but no more injured residents or trapped people were found.
“We were very lucky that this storm did not cause greater damage or harm to our citizens,” Noble said.
Mark and Cherron Ayers, who live in the area where the mobile homes were destroyed, said they were caught unaware by the storm, saying the weather predictions for their area had been relatively mild.
Mark Ayers said he opened the door to look outside and saw his neighbor’s carport fly into the air. Then the neighbor’s mobile home was knocked off its foundation and flipped.
“I was begging him to come back inside,” Cherron Ayers said. “That trailer just came off and rolled and rolled.”
The Pulaski County sheriff’s office posted photos on social media showing trees, power lines and small buildings destroyed, with debris scattered across cow pastures near Scott.
The two people who were injured were in the mobile home that tumbled over and over and was destroyed, said Lt. Cody Burk, spokesman for the sheriff’s office.
At the height of the electrical failures at about 10:45 a.m. Saturday, Entergy spokesman Kerri Case said about 13,000 customers were without power across the state.
Case said the storm moved from west to east, leaving downed trees and power lines in its path. Wind gusts were reported as high as 45 mph in the southern portion of Pulaski County, where the homes were destroyed.
“For us, that level of wind is going to break stuff,” Case said.
Case said linemen were working overtime to get power restored “as quickly as is safely possible.”
“Safety is our core value,” she said. “They will take as long as they need to make sure the customers and crews are safe in the restoration.”
Pockets of power failures remained across the state as of 7 p.m. Saturday.
From Arkansas, the storm system moved into Mississippi. The Associated Press reported that it tore away roofs and caused superficial damage to buildings in Walnut near the Tennessee border.
Authorities said it was still too early to tell if the damage there was caused by a tornado or by straight-line winds, the AP reported.
by Josh Snyder and Clara Turnage (2019, Mar 10) Arkansas Democrat Gazette