Little Rock mayor to declare emergency in response to tornado

National Weather Service confirms EF3 tornado damage in city

Anne Fuller stands in what was left of her business at 9 Shackleford Plaza in the Walnut Valley neighborhood of West Little Rock on Saturday, April 1, 2023 after a tornado struck the area a day earlier, on Friday, March 31. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Colin Murphey)
Anne Fuller stands in what was left of her business at 9 Shackleford Plaza in the Walnut Valley neighborhood of West Little Rock on Saturday, April 1, 2023 after a tornado struck the area a day earlier, on Friday, March 31. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Colin Murphey)

Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. will declare a state of emergency to allow the city to receive federal and state disaster aid as it recovers from Friday’s devastating storm, city officials announced in a Saturday afternoon news release.

More than 50 people were injured and around 2,648 structures were affected by the tornado that tore through Little Rock on Friday. No fatalities have been reported in the city.

Around 16,000 Entergy Arkansas customers in Little Rock were still without power as of Saturday afternoon, according to the release.

Both President Joe Biden and Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders have pledged to support the city, officials said in the statement.

“Yesterday, a catastrophic storm tore through our neighborhoods, injuring dozens and damaging thousands of structures. It was a heartbreaking day for our community, but we are exceedingly grateful there is no reported loss of life,” Scott said in the release.

“Less than 24 hours after the storm, as I walked through ravaged neighborhoods, I heard from courageous, resilient survivors who will recover and rebuild. I’ve never had more faith and confidence in the strength of our community than I do today. We are Little Rock strong.”

As of Saturday afternoon, all roadways in Little Rock were clear, though drivers were advised not to pass through areas affected by the storm.

More than 115 city workers helped clear trees and debris from streets on Saturday. Police are on 12-hour shifts and firefighters are working 24-hour shifts during the emergency, officials said in the release.

The American Red Cross has opened an emergency shelter at Calvary Baptist Church located at 5700 Cantrell Road. A temporary shelter at Hall STEAM Magnet High School closed on Saturday. Free meals were being provided at Wolfe Street Center at 1015 Louisiana St., according to the statement.

North Little Rock schools and donations

While North Little Rock School District buildings saw no structural damage, Amboy Elementary School and Indian Hills Elementary School were without power on Saturday, Superintendent Gregory J. Pilewski said in a news release.

“At this time, we are not certain when power will be restored to those campuses,” Pilewski said.

The City of North Little Rock is directing donations to First Assembly of God at 4501 Burrow Drive, according to the municipality's website.

As of Saturday, the city was asking only for donations of work gloves, five-gallon buckets with lids, flashlights and batteries, sunscreen, large lawn and leaf bags, new tarps, rakes, brooms and dust pans.

Arkansas Foodbank is accepting bottled water and “shelf stable snack items” at Dickey-Stephens Park at 400 W Broadway, said the city website.

Those looking to volunteer in North Little Rock should go to the volunteer staging area at the Edwards Cash Saver at 3801 Camp Robinson Road, according to the website.

— Will Langhorne

2:23 p.m.: Gov. Sanders, Mayor Scott tour tornado damage in Little Rock

Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Mayor Frank Scott Jr. toured damaged and destroyed homes in West Little Rock Saturday morning.

Sanders said five people have died around the state in Friday’s tornadoes, but no storm-related deaths have been reported in Little Rock, Scott added.

The Pulaski County Office of Emergency Management reported that, as of 2 p.m. Saturday, there were no missing persons as a result of the tornado.

The office, along with local fire departments, completed primary search and rescue operations Friday after the storms, according to Madeline Roberts, director of communications for Pulaski County government

Following standard procedure, a secondary search will be conducted Saturday afternoon.

The National Weather service confirmed high-end EF3 damage in Little Rock from Friday's tornado on Saturday afternoon. 

"Damage with winds up to 165 mph have been observed," the weather service said in tweet around 1:20 p.m., "This storm survey is ongoing and will take several days to complete. The estimated path length is 20 to 25 miles."

Speaking in front of a damage fire state on North Shackleford Road, with its metal roof caved in, Sanders said she spoke with President Joe Biden and U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas who offered federal support to the state.

According to a news release from the governor's office, Sanders thanked Mayorkas in their phone call "for his outreach and for his commitment to get the State of Arkansas any resources that are needed quickly."

“From a city, a county, a state and a federal perspective I would say that everyone is working in total lockstep,” Sanders said during her tour of the damage. “And we’re going to do everything we can to make sure that the people of our state are back on their feet again.”

Sanders, Scott and a group of state lawmakers from Little Rock spoke with residents whose homes had been damaged by falling trees. Some houses nearby were completely destroyed, with only concrete steps and the foundation remaining.

“We ask that everyone be patient as we are working to respond as quickly as possible to all the needs as we move forward,” Scott said.

Scott said 2,100 residents in West Little Rock were directly impacted by Friday’s tornado with 27,000 to 30,000 homes without power. The mayor said those needing shelter should go to Hall STEAM Magnet High School located at 6700 H St.

— Neal Earley, Bill Bowden