Governor: Cleanup, recovery crews continue work despite new round of storms in Arkansas

Possible tornado in Berryville accompanies Wednesday’s round of storms

Workers with Bird Electric unload new power poles to be put up on Englewood Road in Little Rock on Wednesday.
(Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Thomas Metthe)
Workers with Bird Electric unload new power poles to be put up on Englewood Road in Little Rock on Wednesday. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Thomas Metthe)

Severe weather that stretched across Arkansas overnight Tuesday and into Wednesday did little to curb cleanup and recovery efforts in the state, Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.

"Despite the fact that we've had weather challenges, we have not seen the energy or the effort from people that are out there removing debris and offering assistance slow down in any way," Sanders said.

For the most part, Arkansas dodged another round of tornadoes on Wednesday.

But David Writer isn't so sure.

He said an apparent tornado damaged a Tobacco Outlet on Berryville's Main Street before it lifted off the ground and came down again on a school building.

"It jumped over several buildings and hit this school building that was right in the middle of four or five other buildings," said Writer, who is the county judge in Carroll County. "It hit that and then jumped up and went on to the northeast."

Writer said it twisted the metal roof of a building the Berryville School Distinct uses for storage.

"It turned it kind of counterclockwise," he said of the roof. "It kind of got up into the high-line wires."

Writer said the damage occurred around 6 a.m., before school had begun.

"It could have been a lot of worse if it had been a little later," he said. "It's right next to the cafeteria. Kids would have been all around."

Christina Sands, district manager for Tobacco Outlet, said she's not sure if it was a tornado or straight-line winds.

"It ripped half our roof off," she said. "Our roof was just a commercial kind of thing so it rolled up like a pop can. We already had the roofer guy out and they pulled it back [into place]. We'll have to get a new roof."

Karen Hatfield, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Tulsa, said they weren't sure on Wednesday if it was a tornado that hit Berryville. She said a tornado-warned storm passed through Madison County before causing damage in Berryville.

Scotty Williams, emergency management director for Poinsett County in northeast Arkansas, said high winds blew some trees down, and a tree came down into a woman's house in Lepanto, grazing her wrist.

"She was pretty shook up and that's understandable," he said.

When asked what time the storm came through, Williams said he wasn't sure.

"I couldn't tell you," he said. "I was trying to hang on to the wheel. I ain't got no wind gauge on my vehicle so I can't tell you how hard it was blowing, but it was probably the hardest I've ever seen the wind blow."

Storms came through Arkansas on Wednesday, just five days after EF-3 tornadoes hit central Arkansas and Wynne, causing extensive damage.

The round of storms on Wednesday unleashed a twister in southeast Missouri that killed five people.

There's a 20% chance of thunderstorms today in central Arkansas, but after that it should be clear for several days, said Thomas Jones, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in North Little Rock.

The governor expressed optimism Wednesday about crews' abilities to continue cleanup despite Wednesday's weather.

"Certainly the rain doesn't help, the high winds that we've seen in different parts of the state are not ideal," she said. "But the crews that have been working since Friday are continuing to work despite the fact that they're working under tough weather conditions."

Roughly 4,500 Entergy customers remained without power around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, according to a utility outage map. The figure marks a drop of about 1,500 customers reported by the utility the previous evening.

The greatest number of affected customers was reported in Pulaski County, about 2,700, followed by Ouachita County, 460. Cross County, which was devastated by one of last week's tornadoes, reported roughly 350 outages.

Electric Cooperatives had about 43 customers without power at about 4:30 p.m., according to the utility. Lafayette County reported the highest number of customers without power, roughly 15.

Emergency services officials in Benton and Washington counties said that as of Wednesday morning they had received no reports of any storm damage.

Robert McGowen, Benton County's public safety administrator said the county had "no damage reports of any kind." Washington County likewise had no damage reported Wednesday afternoon.

"We dodged a bullet again," McGowen said.


The governor spoke alongside U.S. Sen. John Boozman, Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr., a Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator and other local officials during a news conference Wednesday morning at Immanuel Baptist Church City Center, 315 N. Shackleford Road.

The state hadn't heard a response Wednesday afternoon on Sanders' request that the federal government cover all state and local recovery expenses for the first 30 days after Friday's storms.

However, Sanders added, "We feel pretty good about it so far."

The 100% federal cost share request for state and local resources was announced by the governor in a news release on Tuesday afternoon. It applies to "cleanup and emergency measures in Pulaski, Lonoke and Cross counties," according to the release.

Sanders said the federal government was currently covering 75% of all costs, but added that the "arrangement must go further to help Arkansans in need."

Boozman, who represented the congressional delegation at Wednesday's conference, said they want to ensure the federal response is "as it should be." However, he praised FEMA administrator Tony Robinson's efforts to provide support to Arkansas.

"It's going to take a while," Boozman said. "It's just going to take all of us continuing to work together."

During the conference, Robinson, the FEMA administrator, urged residents affected by Friday's storms to call their insurance provider if they have one, and then to apply for assistance by calling (800) 621-3362 or visiting

The City Center is the site of one of three disaster recovery centers in the state. Another is in North Little Rock, 1300 Pike Ave., while the third is in Wynne, 702 U.S. 64.

The centers will allow people to meet with FEMA representatives for help in such areas as insurance, identification and Small Business Administration loans.

Robinson said that people who call should have their driver's license and insurance policy information ready.

Each of the state's three disaster recovery centers has representatives from state agencies available to help people get those documents if they were lost in the storms, Sanders said.

Robinson also highlighted FEMA's partnership with the Small Business Administration. He said that some who apply for aid through FEMA may be encouraged to apply with the Small Business Administration as well.

"Please do that," he urged.


Less than a week after the damaging storms ripped through the state, "storm chasers" are a potential risk to local citizens.

No, not the kind who help warn people about severe weathers.

"Storm chasers" is a nickname given to out-of-state contractors, including roofers, who swarm an area following major storms to take advantage of the situation.

"We're seeing a big influx out of Texas and Louisiana," said Ted Upshaw, co-founder of Accountable Roofing & Remodeling in Little Rock. "Some of them are legitimate. But some of them are just ripping people off."

Upshaw cautioned those affected by the storms to call the contractor's licensing board to confirm someone's legitimacy.

"What we're trying to tell people is be smart if you're gonna do this," Upshaw said. "Make sure they got a license, make sure they got insurance. Just spend five minutes and protect yourself and if they ask for money up front, walk away."

Mark Tarnowsky, general manager of Regal Roofing, also warned of the danger of storm chasers and the lengths they'll go.

"A lot of them, what they'll do, is they'll come in, they'll get a burner phone," Tarnowsky said. "That way they'll have a local prefix. The homeowner doesn't really realize that they're not from this area."

Five days out from the storms, Upshaw said there was about a five-day wait for orders placed with Accountable Roofing & Remodeling, though Wednesday's storm front delayed any work by a day.

Tarnowsky said Regal Roofing is trying to get crews out to work sites within a day of an order.

"Our biggest problem right now, a lot of them have trees all over them," said Tarnowsky. "So we're having to wait for the trees to get to where we can get [the houses] in the dry."

"There's still a lot of heavy construction going on and cleanup," Upshaw said. "Probably when we'll start to get crazy busy will be in the next week or so, when people start getting ready for roofs. ... We're starting to see people look for business now, but the insurance adjusters are just getting here. From the roof side it will be another two weeks before we're really rolling and then the challenge would be getting materials."

With the industry still recovering from the covid-19 pandemic, Upshaw said he believes supply chain issues will impact the rebuilding process.

"We still got holes in the supply chain and when you get a big event like this, it's not big enough to bleed us down nationally, but we'll pull all the stuff out of the region," Upshaw said. "So you'll start being able offer your customers less choices, less color. We got to a period during covid where the only colors we could get were black and weathered wood."

Tarnowsky, who has been in the roofing business for about 24 years, said this is his fourth time dealing with the aftermath of severe weather. Previously, he's been involved in the wake of two tornadoes and a large hail storm in Texarkana.

"One thing about this one, the damage, it's a greater distance," Tarnowsky said. "It's just not in one area. It's in Little Rock, it's in North Little Rock, it's in Jacksonville, it's in Wynne. The distance of the damage is far greater than I've seen."

The twister that impacted the Little Rock area travelled 31.9 miles and had a maximum width of 600 yards, according to the National Weather Service in North Little Rock.

"I believe this work from the tornadoes will keep contractors busy throughout the year," said Tarnowsky.

Information for this article was contributed by Cynthia Howell, Daniel McFadin and Remington Miller of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, and Tracy Neal and Tom Sissom of the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

  photo  Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders shakes hands with members of the Army National Guard as she tours City Center in west Little Rock following an update on tornado damage response and recovery on Wednesday. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Stephen Swofford)

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