Weather officials said Friday a “nasty” storm system is expected to hit much of Arkansas this weekend, leading to a heightened chance for damaging winds and potential tornadoes, especially in the southern part of the state.
The National Weather Service said thunderstorms will become widespread throughout Saturday, affecting nearly the entire state. Forecasters at the North Little Rock bureau warned that parts of southern Arkansas are at the highest risk of storms that could produce tornadoes.
“We’re pretty confident that we could see some pretty nasty storms,” said weather service meteorologist Dylan Cooper. “We’re under the gun most of the day tomorrow.”
Weather service predictions show a broad part of southern Arkansas and northern Louisiana is under a “moderate” risk –– the agency’s second-highest tier –– for damaging winds and potential for tornadoes lasting until Sunday.
Other parts of the state are also at heightened risk of damaging storms.
Damaging winds and tornadoes are the main threats weather officials anticipate during the weekend barrage of storms.
The weather service's warnings come as thousands prepare to attend the Arkansas Derby races Saturday in Hot Springs, as well as other weekend activities outdoors.
Cooper urged people to be cautious regardless of where they are in weather service's risk areas, which he called "best guesses" because severe weather could hit anywhere during a storm.
“For anybody that’s participating between the derby and other things, having a way to find information is key,” he said, adding that knowing also where shelters are located is critical during bad storms. “And if there’s lightning or thunder, go inside.”
The storms are expected to last through Sunday morning before tapering off, forecasters said.
Cooper said lingering rain showers could give way to some sunlight by the afternoon in some areas.