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Arkansas storms cause flash flooding

Winds high; no tornadoes confirmed by Bill Bowden, Grant Lancaster | March 25, 2023 at 8:11 a.m.
Flooding occurred Friday along MacArthur Drive in North Little Rock after storms passed through the area. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Staci Vandagriff)

A wave of thunderstorms that brought flash flooding and tornado warnings to the state Friday had mostly passed by 9 p.m., with high water accounting for more damage than whipping winds, National Weather Service meteorologists said.

Most of the storms had moved east of the Mississippi River, although some lingered over Ashley and Chicot counties around 8:45 p.m., said Dennis Cavanaugh, warning coordination meteorologist with the weather service in North Little Rock.

No tornadoes had been confirmed Friday night, Cavanaugh said, with most of the trouble coming from flash flooding.

"There appeared to have been hundreds of roads across the state under water at one time of the day or another," Cavanaugh said.

He said he wasn't yet sure of the extent of the damage caused by rapidly rising waters. He had heard some scattered reports of trees felled by high winds brought by the storms.

Cavanaugh expected a front moving in today would bring drier conditions and clearer skies.

John Lewis, a senior forecaster for the weather service, said flash flooding occurred in Polk, Scott and Logan counties. He said some areas had received 3 to 4 inches of rain over a 24-hour period.

"Much of the northern half of Arkansas has received 1 to more than 2 inches of rain," the Weather Service posted on Twitter Friday afternoon. "The heaviest totals were noted from Fort Smith (Sebastian Co) and Waldron (Scott Co) to Russellville (Pope Co) and Clinton (Van Buren Co), and also in Benton County (far northwest Arkansas)."

The storm system was still moving across Arkansas at that point.

Lewis said Friday's rain added to the state's already swollen rivers.

"The ground is very saturated," he said. "It's very wet out there. As long as it keeps raining, the rivers aren't going anywhere. They're going to stay up."

The weather service's local hydrology chart showed moderate flooding predicted by this morning along the White River at Des Arc and the Spring River at Hardy and Imboden. By Sunday morning, moderate flooding is also expected along the Black River at Black Rock.

Cavanaugh said some short-term tornado warnings were issued late Friday for specific areas because rotation within thunderstorms could be seen on radar.

"That could be precursor to a tornado," he said. "It's to give folks some time to get to their storm shelter, ideally before the tornado hits."

Lewis said, "It'll be much quieter" today. Sunshine is in the forecast, with a high of about 70 degrees expected for Little Rock.

All of south and much of east Arkansas was under a tornado watch Friday evening, but Lewis said the threat was expected to move out of the state by 9 p.m.

At 1:30 p.m. Friday, the weather service's Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., issued a tornado watch for southwest Arkansas until 7 p.m. Tornadoes and large hail were possible, according to the bulletin.

Late Friday afternoon, the tornado watch was expanded to include southeast Arkansas, too.

Entergy Arkansas' outage map indicated about 12,000 of its 728,000 customers were without electricity as of 6 p.m. Friday.

The Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas reported about 2,550 of its 600,000 members without electricity late Friday afternoon.

The Storm Prediction Center warned the greatest threat of tornadoes would come Friday afternoon and evening in portions of Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee.

In Texas, a suspected tornado struck about 5 a.m. Friday in the southwest corner of Wise County, damaging homes and downing trees and power lines, said Cody Powell, the county's emergency management coordinator. Powell said he had no reports of injuries.

The weather service had not confirmed a tornado, but damage to homes was also reported in neighboring Parker County, said meteorologist Matt Stalley.

The two areas are about 10 miles apart on the western edge of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.

Earlier Friday, a car was swept away and two passengers drowned as it tried to cross a bridge over a flooded creek in the town of Grovespring in southwestern Missouri just after 12 a.m.

The driver, who made it out of the water along with three other passengers, told authorities the rain made it difficult to see that water from a creek had covered the bridge, Missouri State Highway Patrol Sgt. Thomas Young said.

Meanwhile, the search continued in another southwestern Missouri county for a woman who was missing after flash flooding from a small river washed a car off the road.

The Logan Rogersville Fire Protection District said the victim's dog was found safe, but there was no sign of the woman. Two others who were in the car were rescued. Crews planned to use boats and have searchers walking along the riverbank.

Information for this article was contributed by The Associated Press.

Print Headline: Storm wave leaves state roads flooded


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