Leader Blues

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

TOP STORY > > Wicked storms return to area

It could be deja vu all over again as more vicious storms are in the forecast — for the second time in a week.

Forecasters say a storm system will hit on Thursday afternoon and could drench central Arkansas with four inches of rain and could produce tornadoes similar to last week.

As central Arkansas residents worked under clear skies to clean up from last week’s tornado outbreak and utility workers were restoring power to much of the area, forecasters were warning of another round of severe weather that’s due in a few days.

Stormy weather started on Tuesday, but forecasters at the National Weather Service are warning that the worst day could be Thursday.

“It’s an event we’re very concerned about,” weather service meteorologist John Lewis said. “It could be another big event.”

By Thursday, a storm system moving from the Plains will enter Arkansas with plenty of warmth and moisture in place, making for an unstable atmosphere that’s conducive to severe thunderstorms and tornadoes.

The dismal forecast took shape as the weather service updated its tornado count from Thursday’s storms to 10. The twisters caused millions of dollars in damage and knocked out power to tens of thousands of homes.

In all, four tornadoes hit Pulaski County, three struck Saline County, one struck Hot Springs County and one ripped through Lonoke County. A 10th tornado, rated an EF1, swept through parts of Hot Springs and Garland counties, the weather service said.

Gov. Mike Beebe said he’s keeping an eye on the forecast and the high water in the state.

“We’re not looking forward to the forecast this week, which doesn’t look promising,” Beebe said. We’ve got some river levels rising, but they’re not rising to the point obviously where they were before. We’ve also got some receding, which is a good sign.”

Lewis said up to 4 inches of rain could fall before the weather clears again in time for the weekend. The data available suggests the heaviest rain will fall in southern Missouri, though that forecast could change, Lewis said.

Weather service hydrologist Steve Bays said rain in southern Missouri would drain into Arkansas. If the rain falls in the upper reaches of the Black, Spring or White rivers, downstream flooding could be a result, Bays said. Significant rain could cause the Spring River to flood parts of Hardy again or the Black River to cause serious problems in Pocahontas, he said.

On Monday, the Georgetown community in Lonoke County was still cut off by floodwaters, and DeValls Bluff still had high water. The Mississippi River has not yet crested, so the White River continued to slowly rise at St. Charles, Bays said. The White River at Des Arc and Clarendon remained at major stage flooding on Monday. It remains to be seen where the next flood problems will occur.

“We’ve got some concerns,” Bays said. “Until it really shapes up and we see the rainfall, it’s hard to say what the impacts will be.”

Entergy had a high of 45,000 customers without lights after Thursday’s storms, about 20,000 of them in Little Rock.

From the storms of Feb. 5, in which tornadoes destroyed numerous structures from Atkins to Clinton and into northeast
Arkansas, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said Monday that residents in need of housing are in the process of getting government mobile homes.

Tornadoes killed 13 people in Arkansas on Feb. 5, with 12 of them along the path of just one twister. Nationally, 56 people died in the storms across five states.