National Weather Service confirms tornado in Saline County, suspects other areas affected by tornadoes

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An EF-2 tornado touched down near Sardis on Friday night, damaging homes and snapping trees, National Weather Service staff confirmed Saturday.

They said it seemed likely other reports of tornadoes, including one near Wickes in Polk County, would be confirmed.

Before hitting Arkansas, the storm spawned more tornadoes, killed at least two people, in Texas and Oklahoma, and injured dozens more, officials said.

No injuries or deaths in Arkansas had been reported as a result of the storms on Saturday, said John Lewis, senior forecaster for the National Weather Service in Little Rock, although he said that could change when crews survey would reach the affected areas and contact the locals.

“So far it’s just word of mouth,” Lewis said.

The tornado that struck near Sardis in Saline County minutes after 11 p.m. produced winds that peaked at a speed of 185 km/h and traced a path approximately 2.6 km long and 200 meters in wide at most, according to a tweet from the weather agency.

The worst damage was along Pruett Road, where several houses were damaged, the tweet said.

The Enhanced Fujita Scale defines an EF-2 tornado as a tornado with winds of 113-157 mph and capable of causing “considerable damage”.

Survey crews were still inspecting storm damage elsewhere, such as Wickes in Polk County, where forecasters suspect they will be able to confirm that a tornado of roughly the same strength as nearly of Sardis struck, Lewis said.

“The damage in Wickes looks pretty significant. It’s probably going to be a tornado,” Lewis said.

A local coordinator in Wickes said at least 12 homes were damaged by the storm, the weather service reported.

Survey crews were still working toward other areas where damage appeared to be more concentrated than expected from the high winds produced by a regular storm, Lewis said.

One such area was near Kirby in Pike County. Another was near Gamaliel in Baxter County, Lewis said.

Although Friday’s storms affected the power of thousands of Arkansans, most if not all of the outages appeared to have been repaired by Saturday afternoon.

Earlier Saturday, Entergy spokeswoman Brandi Hinkle said a peak of about 18,400 outages was reported at 12:30 a.m. Saturday. In some cases, crews had to restore power several times during the night and early in the morning, which is not unusual in a storm.

About 2,500 electric co-op customers in Arkansas were without power shortly after 8 a.m., according to the utility group’s outage map.

This figure had fallen to 528 customers on Saturday evening.

In Oklahoma, Governor Kevin Stitt surveyed the damage in Idabel, in the southeast of the state, and posted on social media that a 90-year-old man had been killed.

Keli Cain, spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management, said the man’s body was found at his home in the Pickens area of ​​McCurtain County, about 36 miles north of Idabel.

The rural town of about 7,000 people at the foot of the Ouachita Mountains suffered extensive damage, Cain said.

“There are well over 100 homes and businesses damaged, ranging from minor damage to totally destroyed,” Cain said.

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol also reported a 6-year-old girl drowned and a 43-year-old man missing after their vehicle was swept away from a bridge near Stilwell, about 215 km north of Idabel. The drowning has not been officially attributed to the storm and will be investigated by the medical examiner, Cain said.

In northeast Texas, Morris County Judge Doug Reeder said in a social media post that one person had died from a tornado, without giving further details.

Elsewhere in Texas, the National Weather Service in Fort Worth confirmed three tornadoes — in Lamar, Henderson and Hopkins counties — Friday night.

Lamar County Judge Brandon Bell said at least two dozen people were injured across the county.

Information for this article was provided by Remington Miller of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and Jake Bleiberg and Ken Miller of The Associated Press.

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