Seven killed in Arkansas storms

Saturday, May 3rd 2008, 8:33 am
By: News 9

DAMASCUS, Arkansas -- At least seven people, including three members of the same family, were killed Friday and at least 13 people were injured as severe weather swept through Arkansas, emergency officials said.

Three people -- two adults and a child -- died when their home in Damascus, Arkansas, took a direct hit from what may have been a tornado, Van Buren County Sheriff Scott Bradley said.

Two people were killed in Conway County, Arkansas, and one in Hensley, south of the capital city of Little Rock in southern Pulaski County, said Tommy Jackson of the state Department of Emergency Management. He said he did not have details.

In Siloam Springs, Arkansas, a 15-year-old girl was killed when a tree fell through the bedroom where she was sleeping, said Brenda Balk, spokeswoman for Siloam Springs police. A 10-year-old boy sleeping in the same room was extricated and taken to a hospital, Balk said, but was in good condition and was expected to be released soon.

"We're not currently certain if it was straight-line winds or a tornado," said Stacy Vaughn of the Siloam Springs communication department. National Weather Service investigators were expected in Siloam Springs, about 160 miles northwest of Little Rock, she said.

Bradley said six people in Van Buren County were taken to local hospitals with injuries. Jackson said six others in Conway County were also injured.

Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe said 350 homes statewide were damaged or destroyed. In the town of Carlisle, about 34 miles east of Little Rock on Interstate 40, an elementary school and a fire station were hit, Beebe said. A factory in the eastern Arkansas town of Parkin was also struck, along with a high school in the nearby town of Earle, he said.

"We've had our share of stormy weather," Beebe said. "We've had the snows, we've had floods, we've had tornadoes, we've had more floods ... but our people are resilient people. We'll fight through it and we'll get through it."

The fact that the storms struck in the daytime probably saved lives, he said, because people could see more easily.

National Guard troops were being moved into position in spots around the state for security, he said, and disaster declarations are forthcoming.In Van Buren County, Bradley said, the suspected twister destroyed 28 homes, a church, three businesses and six chicken houses. If confirmed, it would be the second tornado in the area this year, he said; one struck February 5.

He said authorities were conducting house-to-house searches to ensure that everyone was accounted for.

"We live in a great place," he said. "A lot of people are stepping up and helping. We're going to get through it again."

State Department of Emergency Management spokesman Tommy Jackson said there also was confirmed damage and an unknown number of injuries around Bee Branch in Van Buren County, just north of Damascus.

"It sounded like all hell was breaking loose," said Randy Payne, 38, who hid in a hallway at his aunt and uncle's house in Damascus.

Eleven Arkansas counties have reported receiving some kind of storm damage, said Renee Preslar of the Department of Emergency Management.

The National Weather Service said tornado touchdowns were also reported in eastern Texas, near the Louisiana border. High winds were reported in Missouri and Illinois.

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