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story.lead_photo.caption NWA Democrat-Gazette/ANDY SHUPE Residents walk to a house in Mountainburg Friday, April 13, 2018, beneath a large tree that fell across a driveway after a tornado swept through the town. - Photo by Andy Shupe

Tornadoes and storms that moved across Arkansas on Friday leveled trees and downed power lines, damaged houses and left several people hospitalized, but no fatalities were reported, officials said Saturday.

The National Weather Service confirmed that tornadoes touched down in Crawford and Howard counties as part of a larger weather system that swept across Arkansas on Friday.

Most reports of wind damage came from the western and north-central portions of the state, according to Brian Smith, a senior forecaster with the National Weather Service in North Little Rock. The severe weather, he said, began in the mid-to late afternoon Friday and started to settle down after midnight.

Straight-line winds caused damage in Baxter County, while 1-inch hail was reported in Clinton and hail about the size of a tennis ball fell near Omaha in Boone County, officials said.

The Arkansas Department of Emergency Management said Saturday that at least five people were taken to hospitals. There were no reported deaths. Four of those people came from Crawford County, where a tornado ripped through the town of Mountainburg early in the evening.

"Overall, the damage levels were very low for this event," said department spokesman Melody Daniel, adding that officials had anticipated more damage based on forecasts.

The National Weather Service in Tulsa confirmed Saturday evening that an EF2 tornado struck Mountainburg. Winds reached 110-120 mph, according to the weather service, leaving behind uprooted trees, overturned cars, damaged buildings and downed power lines in the town of 624 people.

Brad Thomas, emergency management coordinator for Crawford County, reported Friday that three people had to be rescued after being trapped in houses and that 160 buildings were damaged. He said Saturday afternoon that homes had been destroyed and others were left with major damage.

"It's amazing how everyone's come together," Thomas said Saturday.

Daniel said Crawford County officials had declared an emergency, which means the county will have five days to assess the damage and might need state help.

In north-central Arkansas, Mickey Pendergrass, county judge in Baxter County, said the severe weather took out trees, damaged buildings and forced the evacuation of an apartment building in Mountain Home.

The storm also displaced 63 people from Hiram Shaddox Geriatric Center in Mountain Home, where the storm removed about one-third of the roof, Pendergrass said.

The National Weather Service confirmed Saturday that straight-line winds reaching 85-90 mph were responsible for the heavy damage to several businesses in the area.

Pendergrass said Saturday that events were moving forward, pointing out that a fishing tournament was held as scheduled Saturday despite the previous night's damage.

"It could have been a whole lot worse," he said.

Severe weather also extended into parts of central Arkansas, where a dormitory at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway had part of its roof blown off by high winds. The building -- an all-female dorm that houses 240 people -- received water damage as well, and 102 people were displaced, according to university spokesman Christina Munoz Madsen.

"A lot of water got in," she said.

A water removal company and a restoration company were on-site Saturday, and the dorm could open as early as next weekend depending on the cleanup, she said.

Munoz Madsen said there also was minor storm damage to other university buildings.

Parts of the state also received several inches of rain, according to the National Weather Service. Four inches fell in Star City from Friday morning to Saturday morning, and DeWitt saw 5.77 inches of rain, Smith said.

Storms also left many people across the state without electricity. There were 249 Entergy Arkansas customers still without power Saturday evening, according to the utility's online map of power failures. Most of those were in Union County, where there were 159 power failures.

Metro on 04/15/2018

Print Headline: Storm front spreads damage across state

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