Facebook Twitter

Twister-ravaged Arkansas declares emergency

SHARE Twister-ravaged Arkansas declares emergency

SCOTLAND, Ark. — Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe has declared a state of emergency in an area hit by Friday's deadly tornadoes.

A spokesman says Beebe toured an area Saturday south of Little Rock that suffered extensive damage. The declaration will free state money to help residents.

Meanwhile, at least two more tornadoes have touched down in central Arkansas.

Meteorologists reported that the tornadoes were spotted on the ground in Prairie County, about 50 miles east of Little Rock, but also about 40 miles north in Faulkner County.

There were no immediate reports of injuries or major damage.

Tornadoes ripped through neighboring Van Buren County late Friday, killing one woman and destroying several homes. Beebe is scheduled to tour the area today.

The woman killed by a tornado was among three people in one of several homes destroyed by the Friday night storms in the small community of Scotland, about 75 miles north of Little Rock, said Van Buren County Sheriff Scott Bradley. The two other people inside the house were hurt, and one remained hospitalized Saturday, the county's emergency management coordinator said. The person's condition hasn't been released.

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, said Renee Preslar, spokeswoman for the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management.

About 2 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.

Maria Atwater told the Arkansas Democrat Gazette she brought her parents to the school from their nearby home.

"My parents were in the storm cellar in the front of the house right where the trees are down now," Atwater said. "It just ripped up the yard."

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.

John Robinson, warning coordinator meteorologist with the NWS in Little Rock, said a slow-moving front from the west touched off the severe weather Friday.

"We had spotty thunderstorms here and there, and those are the ones — the ones that sit out there by themselves — that end up being tornado producers," he said, noting Arkansas' tornado season generally peaks in April.