Leader Blues

Friday, May 02, 2008

TOP STORY > >Tornadoes, storms slam through area

Leader staff writers

The little town of Carlisle is now shut down. A tornado tore through the center of town Friday, three city blocks wide by a mile long, leaving behind downed trees, power lines and debris, leaving residents without power.
Despite the widespread destruction, no one was seriously injured.

“There is a 9 p.m. curfew tonight and tomorrow,” said Chief Eric Frank of the Carlisle Police Department as he surveyed the damage Friday afternoon.

“Right now, we are not restricting access to any part of the town, but you have to be careful of the downed lines,” said Frank.

“Our chief concern was getting the students out of the school after the tornado went through, which wasn’t easy because of the power lines and trees blocking the roads,” he said.

But, everyone got out safely.

He said an advanced warning system alerted the town’s residents to get out of harm’s way.

The tornado was three blocks wide and touched down for about a mile through town, the chief said.

Kathy Zasimovich, from the state Office of Emergency Management, was in Carlisle to help the town coordinate the efforts to clear roadways and make sure everyone was safe. “There are no injuries and no fatalities,” she said.

“The main line into the town is Line 104, and Entergy shut it off in Little Rock,” said Zasimovich.

Entergy crews were expected to arrive Saturday to move the downed lines. Entergy will not declare the town safe until then.

Alta Snider’s home had a tree limb go through the roof and into her dining room.

The home is safe, as long as it doesn’t rain. The tree that fell on her house was quickly removed and the hole covered with tarp by volunteer workers.

There was damage to several area homes and mobile homes and to the roof of the fire station, according to Lonoke County Judge Charlie Troutman, who had a backhoe, chainsaw and some county workers standing by for downed electrical lines to be cleared, he said Friday afternoon.

“We can’t get our equipment in,” he said.

“There’s some damage but nothing earthshaking,” Troutman added.

Most of the damage appeared to be confined to the area east of Hwy. 13, toward Carlisle schools.

Emmanuelle Baptist Church and the Methodist Family Life Center were setting up relief stations for the town’s 2,500 residents.

There will be food and water available there.

Structural damage was done to some homes around the Hwy. 13-Hwy. 70 intersection, Troutman said.

“Out toward Keo, one house on Hwy. 15 was damaged, several farm shops and a lot of equipment,” the judge said.

Lonoke itself received no significant damage, a city worker said, and Cabot seemed to have escaped any major damage.

Lt. James Kulesa of the Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office said additional officers, county deputies, and state troopers will be patrolling the areas and anyone who does not live in the areas will be asked to leave.

Lonoke County Sheriff Jim Roberson said, “I cannot thank enough all the agencies and citizens who came together today to ensure the safety and welfare of Lonoke’s citizens. I also ask people to cooperate and remain clear of these areas until it is safe.”

Seven people died in tornadoes in Arkansas on Friday.

For area information, residents may call the Carlisle Police Department at 870-552-7893.