Residents in west Little Rock start over after microburst storm

A house that was destroyed by the March 31 tornado at the corner of North Shackleford Road and Breckenridge Drive in Little Rock was leveled again after a severe thunderstorm came through the area Wednesday afternoon. Video at (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Stephen Swofford)

Homeowners removed branches, trees and debris from their property Thursday, the day after a "quick but mighty" microcell thunderstorm blew through Little Rock with 70 to 80 mph wind gusts.

The storm uprooted trees that landed on cars, front yards and roofs.

This marked the second time within the past seven months that residents in west Little Rock were hit by storms. On March 31, an EF3 tornado swept through the same area.

Residents have had to start over on roofing and rebuilding projects.

Daniel Murphy, a firefighter for the city of Little Rock, said he worked at Station Nine before it was hit by the tornado in March.

As he was driving home off of Shackleford Road on Wednesday, he noticed the wind "kicked up out of nowhere" and it felt faster than 70 mph to him.

"By the time I made it to the light, I couldn't see in front of the car," Murphy said. "I turned around, crept back and the rain was so heavy I just couldn't see and it was blowing straight sideways. ... The power lines were down. When I was at the light right there, a transformer blew."

A piece of plywood that was on the Fire Station Nine building flew off, hitting the front of his car. He drove right over it, causing a flat tire.

"The house down there on the corner of Breckenridge, Shackleford, they just put a new roof on it, and now it's sittin' flat on the ground," he added. "Some of the houses off of Breckenridge, the back side of them, they lost the roofs on the back."

Murphy's house held together during the Wednesday afternoon storm and he hasn't found any leaks so far from a tree branch that snapped off onto his roof.

"Hopefully, it's just shingle damage," he said. "But I'll have to have that tree cut down because it's -- see how weak it's gonna be right there? -- I'm afraid it's gonna fall on my neighbor's house."

Adrienne Choudhary, Murphy's neighbor, said she just had a new roof put on her house after the March tornado tore it off, and she hopes she doesn't have to get another.

"The damage doesn't look bad except from the back. The neighbor's tree came down and took down the whole powerline back there," she said.

Choudhary's power was down for several hours because a line was "fully snapped" on one side.

"It just sucks because we're still rebuilding from [the tornado]. We only moved here less than a year ago," she added. "It takes a while, contractors take a while. It's just never-ending."

The siding above the garage has deteriorated and a board covers a large front window while she waits for repairs. As a first-time homeowner, Choudhary said the storms have been quite a learning curve.

Alonzo Burba, a resident down the street on Pleasant Cove said he lost power and saw cinderblocks flying through the air Wednesday.

"I mean this was more than straight-line winds, it was probably a low-grade tornado," he said.

Burba and his wife were standing by the front door and a piece of plywood "smashed right into it," taking out a window.

His wife’s van was pierced and had to be replaced.

At the height of the storm Wednesday, 19,344 customers were without power.

Maneesh Krishnan, assistant public works director for the City of Little Rock said that 80 street locations had to be cleared of fallen trees blocking traffic. The storm caused downed trees and other damage at Butler Park, forcing the city to close the park.

Meteorologist Colby Pope at the National Weather Service said that the downward rushing of air within a thunderstorm toward the ground creates a "microburst."

In a statement, the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management said areas of Pleasant Tree Drive, Huron Lane, and Green Mountain Drive were affected by severe weather.

"Approximately 35 homes were damaged with approximately 10 to 15 of them sustaining major damage," the agency said. "One apartment complex also sustained damage. Numerous trees in the area were blown down and temporarily blocked several roadways."

The damage included 50 power poles that were already serviced after the March 31 tornado, said Matt Ramsey, a spokesman for Entergy.

Part of the St. Charles Boulevard neighborhood between Napa Valley Drive and Green Mountain Drive was hit hard. It has about nine power poles that need to be replaced.

Ramsey said the locations of each downed power pole caused delays in restoring power. Most of them were located in residents' backyards.

"It's hard to reach and get equipment back there because you can't get a bucket truck back there very easily," Ramsey said.

Entergy Arkansas reported that 20 major storms have affected their customers this year, with nine occurring over the summer.

About 300 workers were still working to remove trees and replace dozens of broken poles and equipment to restore power Thursday.

No injuries were reported.

Information for this article was contributed by Daniel McFadin of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

  photo  Workers try to clear downed trees and damaged power lines in Butler Park in Little Rock on Thursday. A severe thunderstorm came through the area Wednesday afternoon, causing further damage to an area still recovering from the March 31 tornado. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Stephen Swofford)

  photo  Workers install new streetlights on a utility pole on North Shackleford Road on Thursday after heavy winds Wednesday afternoon damaged power lines and blew down trees in west Little Rock. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Stephen Swofford)