A storm system that rolled through Arkansas late Friday and early Saturday spawned at least two confirmed tornadoes, resulting in property damage but no deaths or serious injuries, officials said Saturday.
The storm system also produced widespread flooding, power failures, and sleet and snow in Northwest Arkansas as temperatures plummeted.
The storms' rainfall closed roads in northeast Arkansas, led to at least nine water rescues in Little Rock and generated enough wind to tip over seven tractor-trailer rigs along Interstate 40 in St. Francis County, according to the Arkansas Emergency Management Division.
The blown-over trucks closed the freeway in both directions Saturday morning near Wheatley, Arkansas Department of Transportation officials said. The wreckage was cleared by 9:20 a.m.
In Little Rock, traffic on westbound Interstate 440 near downtown had to be rerouted Saturday because of an overturned tractor-trailer. The tractor was hauling two trailers that were hitched together, and both had to be emptied before they could be removed, officials said. That caused a daylong traffic jam that extended for 5 miles, the Transportation Department said.
The wreck was likely caused by the weather, agency spokesman Danny Straessle said.
Although there were property damage, vehicle crashes and flash flooding, no injuries or fatalities were reported anywhere in the state.Gallery: Severe Weather across Arkansas
Still "it was definitely a noteworthy event for the record books," said Eric Green, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in North Little Rock.
The strongest of the two tornadoes occurred shortly before 8 p.m. Friday in the area of Scranton. Tobi Miller, director of the Logan County emergency management office, said a confirmed EF2 tornado started at Mount Magazine and ended in Scranton, traveling at 55 mph with wind speeds of up to 125 mph.
At least nine homes were damaged, five of which were destroyed, according to county officials. Two sets of chicken houses also were destroyed, Miller said.
The American Red Cross was contacted to assist the displaced families, Logan County Sheriff Jason Massey said.
In Lonoke County, an EF1 tornado also damaged property.
Scarlett Faulk pulled up on the farm near Humnoke where she grew up and recognized the neighbor's old tractor shed. It was resting on top of an abandoned office building next to an old cotton gin. The overnight tornado lifted the shack off the ground and put it there.
"Obviously, it's very heartbreaking and disappointing to see that," said Faulk, 33, who now lives in Austin. "It's one of those gut-wrenching things. You never want to see anything like that, ever."
The rainfall from the storm caused dangerous conditions. Sections of highways across the state had to be closed because of high water, according to the Department of Transportation.
In the northeast portion of the state, small sections of roadways were closed Saturday. They included Arkansas 175 in Sharp County, Arkansas 166 in Randolph County and Arkansas 115 in Lawrence County. Two highways in Jackson County -- Arkansas 224 and Arkansas 226 -- also were reported closed.
Arkansans had been warned Friday that the storm system would produce winds similar to those of a Category 1 hurricane, which has a range of wind speeds from 74-95 mph. The strongest wind recorded during the storm was in Monticello, at 71 mph, according to the National Weather Service.
The storms left tens of thousands of households without electricity Saturday. In all, there were roughly 42,000 storm-related outages among Entergy customers across the state, company spokesman David Lewis said.
By noon Saturday, the number of customers without power was reduced to fewer than 23,000, and by sundown that number had dropped to 14,620, according to Entergy.
Most of the remaining customers without power should have electricity restored by the end of the weekend, but some may have to wait until Tuesday, Lewis said.
High wind was the main culprit for the outages, but lightning also was a factor. In all, 283 power poles were broken during the storm, which caused 356 spans of lines to fall, according to Entergy.
As of Saturday night, more than 3,800 customers were without power in Ashley County, 3,000 in Chicot County and another 1,155 in White County, Lewis said.
Tuesday Butler, a dispatcher in Chicot County, said the high winds toppled numerous power lines and trees in that county in far southeast Arkansas. The gusts were so strong, she said, that some mobile homes and campers flipped over.
The severe weather had moved out of the area by sunrise Saturday. Rain lingered in places, and temperatures dropped in the storm's wake, producing wintry conditions in Northwest Arkansas.
Meteorologist Joe Sellers with the National Weather Service in Tulsa said areas around Fort Smith received sleet and freezing rain Saturday morning while the far northwest corner of the state had snow.
Temperatures hovered around freezing for much of the state during the day Saturday.
The storm "was a significant event," said Melody Daniel, a spokeswoman with the state Emergency Management Division. "We had a lot going on."
A home on Old Military Road in Midway sits in ruin Saturday after an EF-2 tornado struck in Logan County late Friday.
Bradey Rhodes, an apprentice lineman with First Electric Cooperative, prepares a power pole Saturday as crews replaced downed lines along Arkansas 232 in southern Lonoke County. More photos at www.arkansasonline.com/112storms/.
Jeff Mincy helps Rosie Morales after her car became stuck Saturday on a slick Wilson Street in Fayetteville as she drove to work. Sleet fell in Northwest Arkansas for part of Saturday. More photos at nwaonline.com/200112Daily.
Metro on 01/12/2020
Print Headline: Twisters in mix as storms hit Arkansas