Tornado Hits Arksansas; Storms Lash Other U.S. States

Kelly P. Kissel in Little Rock, Ark.
Associated Press
April 4, 2008

Gregory Greene has lived in this part of Tornado Alley for all of his 39 years and had never seen a tornado.

Until Thursday night, that is.

"I thought I was going to die," Greene said after a twister swept through Little Rock, Arkansas, and many of its suburbs.

The National Weather Service said an unknown number of people were injured. No deaths have been reported.

"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, [the tornado] 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.

(Related photos: "Tornadoes Ravage U.S. South" [February 6, 2008].)

Hangar Destroyed, Planes Flipped

At the North Little Rock Airport, the storm passed directly over the local office of the weather service. The tornado destroyed an airport hangar and flipped over several single-engine planes. A fuel truck was also toppled.

Damage also was 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 were reported down in Jacksonville and Cabot.

Authorities had no precise count Friday morning on the extent of injuries.

Anticipating damage, the state's largest electric utility, Entergy Arkansas, requested line workers in neighboring states to stand by to help. Company spokesman James Thompson said there were 38,500 customers still without power Friday morning, adding, "It's going to be a long day."

Storms From Texas to New England

The storm was part of a weather system that stretched from Texas to New England, where snow fell in some areas.

A strong thunderstorm struck the area around Denton County, Texas, early Friday, producing winds as fast as 50 miles (80 kilometers) an hour and damaging some homes.

The Arkansas storm contributed to traffic accidents when it passed through the Little Rock metropolitan area of about 500,000 people. A separate storm downed trees at the University of Central Arkansas campus in Conway.

In Cammack Village, a community of a thousand surrounded by northwest Little Rock, police and firefighters went door-to-door to check on residents.

Paramedics tended to an elderly woman, who didn't appear seriously hurt. An oak tree blocked in neighbors on a cul-de-sac and water from torrential rains flowed down streets a half foot (15 centimeters) deep.

Susann Walters, 55, said she hid in a closet with her two dogs and a cat as the storm approached.

"It was probably 30 to 45 seconds," Walter said. "It was quick."

A tree from her front yard smashed the hood and windshield of a neighbor's SUV. But her bungalow home lost only a few shingles. She was still blocked in, though, with trees down across either end of the street.

"I'm not going anywhere," she said as lightning filled the sky and the roar of chain saws pierced the night.

A second storm hit south of Little Rock later Thursday night but was not as potent.

Over the past two months parts of Arkansas have seen a tornado during a storm outbreak that killed 13, a foot (30 centimeters) of snow, more than a foot of rain, and near record flooding.

Associated Press writer Jon Gambrell contributed to this report from Cammack Village, Arkansas.

Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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