Twisters Tear Through Arkansas

Little Rock, Ark., residents survey storm damage early Friday, April 4, 2008. A tornado hit parts of Little Rock and its suburbs Thursday, injuring an unknown number of people while damaging businesses and downing trees and power lines. (AP Photo/Mike Wintroath)
AP Photo/Mike Wintroath
Gov. Mike Beebe said Friday a tornado that hit central Arkansas, damaging businesses, felling trees and knocking out power to 47,000 customers brought with it another set of problems to a weather-weary state.

One person was reported dead in a traffic accident.

"We've been assaulted by mother nature over the last few months," Beebe said. Over the past two months, parts of Arkansas have endured an EF4 tornado during a storm outbreak that killed 13, a foot of snow, upward of a foot of rain and near-record flooding.

"The ground's already saturated," Beebe said. "The lakes and the reservoirs are already full, so all the additional rainfall increases the problems significantly."

The storm Thursday night damaged a trailer park, an auto dealership and other homes and businesses in Saline County before moving into Little Rock and North Little Rock, where it damaged airplanes at an airport and passed over the local office of the National Weather Service. Forecasters had to temporarily take shelter.

Entergy Arkansas spokesman James Thompson said there were 38,500 customers without power Friday morning. That includes 18,500 in the Little Rock area, 8,200 in the Jacksonville and Cabot areas, 9,300 in Hot Springs and 1,300 in Faulkner County.

First Electric Cooperatives said it had 8,500 customers out in central Arkansas.

Thompson had no estimate for when power would be restored. He said numerous power poles were broken by the high winds and that numerous lines are down.

"It's going to be a long day," Thompson said. The utility had made arrangements Thursday with neighboring states to send line crews in anticipation of the bad weather.

Pulaski County officials said Friday morning trees were down and there was flooding at Gravel Ridge in the North Little Rock area. Flooding closed parts of Interstate 30 for a time in Saline County but by 9 a.m. the water was receding. In Hot Spring County, deputies were having trouble reaching some parts of the county to block off roads covered by water.

Beebe said there was one traffic-related death in Clark County, and a report of a missing woman in Pulaski County.

In the Cammack Village area of Little Rock, near the Arkansas River, residents were walking their dogs Friday morning and looking at the damage. Steve Bauman, 55, said he and his wife hid in an interior bathroom of their house after a tornado siren sounded for the second time Thursday night.

"We felt the house shaking so we figured it hit on the back of the house," Bauman said. The high winds lopped off the top of a pine tree in the Baumans' back yard, and a limb pierced the cathedral ceiling of their bedroom. Bauman said he slept to the sound of water dripping into a pot he placed under the hole.

Neighbor Jeff Melville, 45, said his front door began to shake as the storm passed.

"I didn't move fast enough, I should have been (away from) there five minutes earlier," Melville said while his dog Daisy dog sniffed at fresh pine needles blown down the night before. "I grabbed her, touched the front doorway and ran to the hallway," he said. Melville's home suffered shingle damage, though downed limbs lay scattered in the neighborhood's small park.

Thursday night in Cammack Village, a community of 1,000 surrounded by northwest Little Rock, police and firefighters went door-to-door to check on residents.

Gregory Greene, 39, watched as the tornado passed through part of Little Rock.

"I thought I was going to die," Greene said.

"I saw debris flying around in a circle when I was about to go in and pick up my girlfriend from work," Greene said outside an Andy's Restaurant. "Stuff was going around in circles.

"About that time, it pushed her up against the building and knocked me down and pushed me under that truck," Greene said. While he was under the truck, the storm flipped a car in the next parking space. His right elbow was rubbed raw.

At the North Little Rock Airport, a single-engine Cessna lay on its nose propeller against a fuel truck near the runway Friday morning. The winds also tore into one metal-sided hangar and cut across the runway heading northeast.

At Benton, a car dealership's surveillance camera caught the storm on tape. After hitting Little Rock, the storm moved into the city's northeastern suburbs. Trees and power lines were reported down in Jacksonville and Cabot. A number of shelters were set up at churches in the region.

As early as last weekend, forecasters had warned of a severe weather outbreak Thursday night.