SPRINGHILL -- One week after Arkansans were building snowmen and eating snow ice cream, two tornadoes struck communities in central and western Arkansas, damaging houses, power lines and at least one church.
Authorities knew of no injuries. All but 474 of the 7,501 Entergy Arkansas customers who had lost electrical power during thunderstorms that moved across the state Sunday night and early Monday had power restored by 5:45 p.m. Monday.
The majority of those customers still without power were in central Arkansas' Conway County, where 235 customers remained without service. Among other areas where customers still lacked service were the Pine Bluff area in Jefferson County and Pulaski, Pope and Faulkner counties.
The tornadoes, both low-level EF-1 twisters, struck the tiny Faulkner County community of Springhill just before 1 a.m. Monday and an area 2 miles north of Huntington in Sebastian County at 6:59 p.m. Sunday, according to residents and the National Weather Service in North Little Rock.
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Photos by Benjamin Krain
Photos by Benjamin Krain
The Enhanced Fujita scale lists an EF-1 tornado as having winds of 86 to 110 mph. The scale ranks tornadoes on the basis of damage and wind speeds up to EF-5, when winds can exceed 200 mph.
Outside the Needs Creek Missionary Baptist Church in Springhill, an Arkansas flag fluttered in a brisk wind Monday as sheriff's deputies and others stood outside the heavily damaged building.
Branches from a big tree had crashed to the ground, and some had hit the side of the brick building. Debris had landed in a breezeway at the front of the church, where crime-scene tape blocked curiosity seekers from entering. The roof of the church's main building was heavily damaged.
"I've lived here 55 years, and I've never seen anything that bad in this community," said a man standing outside the church.
Several yards away, a commercial tractor-trailer rig was parked near Joe Craven's home.
Craven said his mother-in-law, who lives with him, came to his door during the night and said, "'Your truck is on fire.'"
He rushed outside. The truck wasn't on fire but was lying on its side with a blinker on, making it appear from a distance at night as if there were a fire, he said.
"I called 911," he said. He also looked at a clock. It was 12:54 a.m.
The truck was damaged but had no cargo at the time.
In total, 15 homes in Springhill, roughly 8 miles north of Conway, had minor damage, said Faulkner County Attorney David Hogue. Five structures, including the church, were heavily damaged, he said. The storm's path extended from the end of Tanglewood Drive to Interstate 40 at Clinton Mountain Road, Hogue said.
Farther down the road, several family members were busy helping J.C. and Sue Rodden remove debris, some dangerous, from their small yellow house.
The Roddens were in bed when the wind sent their barn's steel beams and concrete pilings crashing into the back of their home. A huge truss dangled through the ceiling, just feet from the couple's bed. J.C. Rodden was working to remove some of the steel with a tractor Monday.
"The Roddens are lucky to be alive," said state Sen. Jason Rapert, who visited the area.
Despite the extensive damage, Rapert, R-Bigelow, said he was encouraged to see neighbors, the sheriff's office and others turn out to help those affected and was "thankful no one was seriously injured."
In Sebastian County, Travis Cooper, deputy director of the county's Office of Emergency Management, said damage was minor. The storm destroyed a metal storage shed belonging to a water-treatment plant and damaged a fence around the plant, Cooper said.
Ten to 12 homes were damaged or had outside debris that could have struck the houses, he said. Two homes clearly suffered some damage, as did four chicken houses, some out buildings and barns, Cooper said. The storm also uprooted some trees, the weather service said.
Jeff Hood, a forecaster with the weather service in North Little Rock, said other wind damage had occurred in parts of southwest Arkansas, specifically Montgomery and Pike counties, and in Jefferson County.
Most places in the state got between a half-inch and just more than an inch of rain during the storms, he said. Even so, much of the state remains in a drought, with the north-central and far northern areas in the worst shape, he said.
The next rain is expected in the the state Friday or Saturday.
For now, Arkansans can appreciate highs in the upper 40s to lower 50s with overnight lows in the mid-20s to the mid-30s, Hood said.
"That's normally the normal [temperature range] for Arkansas this time of year," he said. "If a normal week were to exist, we'd be dealing with a few days of it this week."
State Desk on 01/23/2018
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