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WATCH | Severe storms cause outages; NWS raises possibility of tornado

by From Staff Reports | March 31, 2023 at 10:16 p.m.
A National Park Service ranger directs traffic near downed power lines on Gorge Road at the entrance to Gulpha Gorge Campground in Hot Springs National Park on Friday. - Photo by James Leigh of The Sentinel-Record

Severe weather that moved through Garland County Friday afternoon caused downed trees, power outages and minor road flooding, but no reports of injuries or major property damage, according to Garland County Emergency Management Deputy Director Bobby King.

Colby Pope, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in North Little Rock, told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that a tornado may have touched down in Garland County.

Pope told the Democrat-Gazette that the Garland County damage was in the vicinity of Piney and Fountain Lake.

King said Montgomery County had reports of some downed trees near the county line, but he had gotten no reports as of 3 p.m.

"There was a possibility out in the Meyers Creek area that we might have had some trees down across the road, might have gotten on the power line," he said of the Crystal Springs area.

"I've heard just on the radio -- I've not received any phone calls or damage reports or anything but just heard on the radio listening to the scanner -- that we had some trees on lines, trees across roads, transformers blew -- whether they were hit by lightning or a tree fell across the line and popped it, whatever in various places."

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Around 800 outages were being reported on Entergy's online outages site as of 3 p.m.; by 10 p.m., there were only around a dozen in Garland County.

"The sheriff's office, I think, got a report of some damage up around Fountain Lake area as it went through there, but the last I heard they drove through the area -- they checked the school, they checked all the surrounding area around in there -- and could not find anything significant in that area," King said.

"And like I said I have not received one phone call reporting actual damage anywhere."

Garland County Department of Emergency Management Director Bo Robertson told The Sentinel-Record Friday that he had not heard of any tornado touchdowns verified by the National Weather Service in the county. Robertson also said he doubted that the NWS would send an assessment team this quickly for a possible touchdown without any damage.

Pope told the Democrat-Gazette the severity of the storms would not be determined for a few days.

According to Ken Blair, a National Park Service volunteer and host at Gulpha Gorge Campground, two trees fell at the campground with one falling across Gorge Road and taking down the power to the campground. The other tree fell across Gulpha Gorge Campground Road, limiting access to the campground.

A number of local school districts took refuge in safe rooms when the storm approached. Fountain Lake posted on its Facebook page at 1:37 p.m. that all students and staff had been evacuated to the saferooms, and would remain there for the duration of the storm. By 2:28 p.m., it posted that all students and staff had returned to class at 2:20 p.m., and students would dismiss at the normal times.

At 1:23 p.m., the National Weather Service said a severe thunderstorm capable of producing a tornado was located near Lofton, or 12 miles west of Hot Springs, moving northeast at 45 mph.

The Weather Service later issued a severe thunderstorm warning that included southwestern Garland County along with parts of Clark, Pike, Montgomery and Hot Spring County until 2 p.m. That was followed by another thunderstorm warning that included Garland and surrounding counties until 4 p.m.

  photo  Blakesnake Road was blocked at both ends by emergency response vehicles Friday after a storm caused tree damage that had the roadway partially blocked. - Photo by Donald Cross of The Sentinel-Record

Print Headline: WATCH | Severe storms cause outages; NWS raises possibility of tornado


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