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Central Arkansas storms kill at least 3; threat continues in state

by Daniel McFadin, Bill Bowden, Remington Miller, Josh Snyder | March 31, 2023 at 11:05 p.m.
Photo of tornado taken from First Security Building in Little Rock, looking toward North Little Rock on Friday, March 31, 2023 (Ami Schenck special to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)

At least three people were killed in connection with Friday's storms, according to state and local officials.

Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a news conference with Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. that local authorities in Wynne have confirmed two deaths in that community.

The Pulaski County coroner said earlier Friday one person in North Little Rock died as a result of the storms.

[Video not showing up? Click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xz_F7fGrpeA]

Hospitals in the Little Rock metropolitan area reported patients, including children, coming into their emergency rooms, some in critical condition, as a result of Friday’s severe weather. 

Colby Pope, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in North Little Rock — which declared an emergency, shut down its operations and moved them to Memphis — said a tornado hit Pulaski County today and another one may have touched down in Garland County.

Widespread damage was reported in Sherwood, North Little Rock and Little Rock. 

Rescue efforts are underway.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

All available MEMS emergency services staff have reported for duty.

Baptist Health Medical Center is treating at least 21 people who were injured in the storms, five of whom were in critical condition, hospital spokeswoman Cara Wade said in an email shortly before 6 p.m. The patients are being treated at their centers in Little Rock and North Little Rock, she said. 

“We have already begun to receive patients, and a few of these are in critical condition,” she said.

According to the spokeswoman, the hospital is preparing to treat additional injuries.

CHI St. Vincent Infirmary is “seeing a high volume of patients” in its emergency room, hospital spokesman Joshua Cook said. 

Cook said he couldn’t immediately provide further details on the number of patients or their conditions.

He urged people who don’t need emergency assistance to keep clear of the hospital while medical personnel catch up on those in need of immediate care. 

Arkansas Children’s Hospital has treated children who were injured as a result of the storms, according to an email from spokeswoman Hilary DeMillo. 

The facility is the state’s only level 1 pediatric trauma center, DeMillo said, and it is prepared to care for any other children who were injured by the severe weather.

UAMS Medical Center is under mass casualty level 1, meaning they are on standby and expecting between 10 and 20 patients, according to hospital spokeswoman Andrea Peel.

Peel said she didn’t have any information around 3:30 p.m. about anyone who was brought into their emergency room. 

“Right now we’re okay,” she said. “But that could change.”

The hospital was previously under a level 3, according to the spokeswoman. The facility will be available and “take care of anyone who comes in,” she said. 

“We’ll work with our partner hospitals throughout the city. We’ll use all the trauma systems and make sure that everyone has a place to go to.”

The city of Little Rock tweeted that residents should stay in their homes to emergency officials to respond. Scott tweeted that they are responding to Shackleford, Breckenridge and Rodney Parham Roads. 

Scott said in a Twitter post shortly after 6:15 p.m. that at least 24 people have been hospitalized. No deaths were reported, however. 

Scott described property damage as “extensive,” and said city officials were still responding to the storm’s impact.

DAMAGE

The police station in Sherwood was damaged, and Kiehl Avenue was blocked. Homes there have also been damaged.

Homes were destroyed in North Little Rock near Pontiac Drive and Osage Drive, according to tornado reports published by the Storm Prediction Center. 

The reports said another house was damaged in Cammack Village in Little Rock.

Preliminary reports indicate heavy structure damage to Amboy, Levy, the Indian Hills Neighborhood, and Burns Park in North Little Rock, according to the North Little Rock Police Department.

Emergency Response Personnel have responded to the affected areas and are currently working to assess the damage and locate injured persons, they said. 

There are reports of some injuries in the affected areas. 

Authorities are asking that all vehicular and pedestrian traffic avoid all damaged areas while emergency response personnel are on scene rendering aid. 

An Emergency Operation Center has been established at the North Little Rock Justice Center at 1 Justice Drive in North Little Rock. Information is still being gathered and will be provided as it becomes available, authorities said.

The Pulaski County Sheriff's Office said first responders are on scenes in the Rodney Parham and Jacksonville areas. They urged not stopping to survey damage and said those traveling home may have to take an alternate route.

A National Guard spokesman said the front gate of Camp Robinson was closed due to damage beyond it. Power was knocked out in his office.

Debris was reported near Interstate 430 in Little Rock and emergency officers are responding in that city as well.

Pope, the meteorologist with the Weather Service, said, “We got a lot of damage across western and northern parts of Little Rock as well as Sherwood and Jacksonville, and some damage south of Cabot.”

Pope said the Garland County damage was in the vicinity of Piney and Fountain Lake.

MORE STORMS

A tornado warning has been issued for parts of Arkansas including Arkadelphia, Gum Springs and Curtis until 5 p.m., the weather service said. 

“We’ve still got more storms that are tornadic back to southwest,” said Pope. “They’re entering Clark County now and and will be heading in the general direction of Little Rock along the I-30 corridor.”

He said those storms should pass through central Arkansas in a couple of hours, but hopefully, they’ll miss the Little Rock area, where rescue efforts are underway.

Pope said all of the storms should move out of central Arkansas by 8 or 9 p.m.

He said the severity of the tornado won't be determined for a few days.

Meanwhile, Entergy’s outage map showed that over 45,000 customers were out of power just before 3 p.m. on Friday.

The Arkansas Electric Cooperative outage map showed that over 8,000 people were without power on Friday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. 

Over 6,000 of those outages are in Lonoke County, the map showed. Benton County had the second highest number of outages with over 400.

 Gallery: Tornado slams Little Rock



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