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Monday, April 23, 2018, 5 a.m.

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Storm system likely spewed 11 tornadoes in Arkansas, agency reports

By Emily Walkenhorst

This article was published April 17, 2018 at 4:30 a.m.

A map showing the location of the 11 tornadoes that hit Arkansas

The National Weather Service on Monday said 11 suspected tornadoes touched down in Arkansas during severe weather this past 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. Damage 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 damage. If a twister had gone through a subdivision or mobile-home park, more 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 4 miles east of Crossett and traveling just more than 4 miles.

The Ashley County tornadoes didn’t create much damage in residential areas. Miller said the wind tore some shingles off of roofs, and an aluminum roof flew off of a church.

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, Loftin said.

County workers have cleared debris off roadways but still need to pick it up off 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 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 in the storm on Main Street in Greenwood.

“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.

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