Ark. tornadoes kill woman, gov declares emergency
Associated Press Writer
SCOTLAND, Ark. (AP) – Leveled homes, overturned vehicles and uprooted trees were scattered across central Arkansas on Saturday after several tornadoes ripped through the state, killing a woman and injuring two dozen others, authorities said.
At least two more tornadoes touched down in the region late Saturday, according to the National Weather Service, but no injuries or major damage were immediately reported.
Gov. Mike Beebe declared a state of emergency Saturday after visiting a community south of Little Rock hit hard by Friday’s storms, and he was scheduled Sunday to visit heavily damaged areas north of the city, his spokesman said. The statewide declaration suspends regulations that could inhibit emergency crews from helping storm-damaged areas.
The woman killed Friday was inside one of several homes destroyed by the tornadoes in the small community of Scotland, about 75 miles north of Little Rock, said Van Buren County Sheriff Scott Bradley. A tornado was spotted in neighboring Faulkner County late Saturday, while a second tornado was reported in Prairie County, about 50 miles east of Little Rock.
Two other people inside the Scotland house were hurt Friday, and one remained hospitalized Saturday, authorities said. The person’s condition hasn’t been released. In western Arkansas, a person drowned after heavy rain, said state Department of Emergency Management spokeswoman Renee Preslar.
A large pig rooted through debris of a fallen home and demolished hog pen in Scotland on Saturday morning, while chain saws buzzed nearby as fallen trees were cleared from roadways.
“It will never look the same here again, but our people help each other out,” Bradley said. “We’ll get through this.”
Ronnie Lindsey, 44, sifted through the rubble of the trailer that he shared with his brother. Lindsey was in Mayflower when the storm hit, and he said his brother, a paraplegic, sought safety in a nearby storm shelter.
The storm destroyed their trailer, littering nearby fields with debris, but it spared the five pigs they had been raising. One, named Bacon, wandered through the wreckage Saturday morning.
Lindsey said he didn’t know what the brothers would do next.
“There ain’t insurance here, and who can afford it?” he said.
Severe damage was reported in broad swaths from near the Missouri border to the north to Saline County about 20 miles south of Little Rock, said Brian Smith, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Little Rock. But officials were working Saturday to determine exactly how many twisters hit.
“There appear to be at least a half-dozen tracks, but in some cases there may have been one long track,” Smith said. “We’re out there trying to determine exactly what happened.”
Bob Parent, a high school teacher and bus driver, said he and his wife, Kathy, were sitting in the living room of their home in Scotland on Friday night when the power went out and they heard the tornado approaching.
“We barely got inside the doorway of the kitchen when it hit,” Parent said. “We hunkered down on the floor. I covered her up and the house went away around us.”
The storm took off the roof and one wall of Parent’s home, and another wall was partially caved in.
High water swept a car off a low-water bridge about 9 p.m. Friday in Scott County, south of Fort Smith on the Oklahoma line, and the driver drowned after getting out of the vehicle and being swept away, Preslar said.
About two dozen people were injured across the affected counties, Preslar said.
Bradley, the sheriff, said he believed everyone had been accounted for in Scotland, where about 50 National Guard troops were deployed to assist local authorities.
Arkansas National Guard spokesman Capt. Chris Heathscott said in a statement that 50 troops also were mobilized to assist Saline County’s East End community, where about 100 people took shelter at an elementary school Friday night.
Red Cross disaster teams, which include nurses and mental health professionals, were in Scotland, East End and other communities assessing damage and distributing water, food and supplies as needed, spokeswoman Brigette Williams said.