Tornado sweeps central Arkansas; injuries reported - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Tornado sweeps central Arkansas; injuries reported

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - A tornado left a path of damage through Pulaski and Saline counties, with numerous downed trees and broken utility poles. Electricity was out to 47,000 customers Friday in central Arkansas.

The Thursday night storm damaged a trailer park, an auto dealership and other spots in Saline County, and moved northeast into Little Rock and then North Little Rock. The twister damaged areas of the central part of Little Rock and moved past the National Weather Service office in North Little Rock, where the airport also sustained damage to hangars and aircraft.

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. Crews from other parts of the state will assist in getting power back in central Arkansas, he said.

Pulaski County officials said Friday morning trees were down and there was flooding at Gravel Ridge in the North Little Rock area.

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 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.

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, the storm passed directly over the local office of the National Weather Service. A single-engine Cessna lay on its nose propellor 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.

Damage was also reported in Benton at a mobile home park and a car dealership whose 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.

The storm contributed to traffic accidents when it passed through the metropolitan area of about 500,000 people. A number of shelters were set up at churches in the region.       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.

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

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. 

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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