Utility crews are working to restore electricity in central and south Arkansas after a powerful storm hit the state Wednesday night quickly bringing down trees and power lines. Damage is extensive in some areas and Entergy Arkansas warns it could be a few days before power is back on for all customers.
The National Weather Service says the highest wind speed was measured at 64 miles-per-hour, but Meteorologist Sean Clark says tree damage suggests winds exceeded that in some locations.
"It takes some pretty strong winds to snap some trees, and of course, that’s part of the reason why we send a survey crew out there. It’s to determine what type of trees it were that snapped and what kind of wind speed that would correlate to," Clark said.
"Just looking at the damage, it looks like there were two wide swaths of damage across the state. There was one that went from Mt. Ida to Jacksonville, and then there’s another region of damage from about Camden to Monticello, east toward the Mississippi River there."
In Little Rock’s Capitol View/Stifft’s Station neighborhood, Alex Lanis said "it’s a war zone over here." He was assessing damage done to a shotgun house on West 6th Street which he has spent the last year working to renovate.
"My house is tilted about three feet over, my shed in the back is completely gone, I guess part of it’s in my neighbor’s yard. There’s trees down everywhere," he said, "so yeah, a rough day over here."
Lanis was working Thursday morning to collect belongings that had been in the shed which were strewn across his backyard. He was waiting for his father to arrive before deciding what to do next. A similar shotgun house on his block was damaged by a tree which had fallen against it.
Across the street, Casey Strong was waiting for an insurance assessor to arrive and look at her car, which part of a tree had fallen on. She noted that the brunt of the storm, which was preceded by an ominous yellowish-orange sky, kicked in quickly.
"The storm started about, what was it, 9:15ish," she asked her boyfriend. "Basically we heard a loud kind of cracking noise, didn’t really know what happened. He was running around outside, my boyfriend, and basically came out and we found the car covered in a bunch of tree branches. It just landed on the car, broke the back windshield, damaged the trunk. [I] Don’t know how bad the damage is yet," Strong said.
While she called it a terrible situation, Strong said she appreciated neighbors who have come to each other’s aid.
"We’ve had a great community in our area. A lot of people came out last night to make sure everything was okay."
It’s a sentiment shared by Lanis, despite the fact that a construction insurance policy he had for the restoration project of his shotgun house had just expired.
"It was a bad storm, but hey, you know, it’s stuff. Luckily no one over here was hurt and all the neighbors kind of came together yesterday and consoled each other," Lanis said. "We have a really, really cool group of neighbors – some amazing people – and so it was nice to have everyone there and know that no one was hurt."
Similar damage was reported elsewhere in the state. Entergy Arkansas said its system suffered extensive damage and that crews are working as quickly as is safely possible to restore power. With power lines laying in many roadways and yards, spokeswoman Kerri Jackson Case is urging people to be extremely careful to avoid coming into contact with them.
"There are broken poles, there’s downed wires, there are trees that are tangled up in wires. You don’t want to be going near any downed power lines. That is not safe at all. You cannot tell by looking at a power line if it’s energized or not and that can be a fatal mistake," she said.
About 82,000 customers were without power at the peak of the storm Wednesday night. By 6 p.m. Thursday, that had been almost cut in half, down to 44,300 customers. People can check the status of power outages on Entergy Arkansas’s website.
KUAR News interns Renea Goddard and Andrew Fleming contributed to this report.