Staff and Wire Reports
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Gregory Greene has lived in this part of Tornado Alley for all of his 39 years and had never seen a tornado, until Thursday night.
"I thought I was going to die," Greene said after a twister swept through Little Rock and many of its suburbs. The National Weather Service said an unknown number of people were injured.
"I saw debris flying around in a circle when I was about to go in and pick up my girlfriend from work," Greene said outside an Andy's Restaurant. "Stuff was going around in circles. About that time, it pushed her up against the building and knocked me down and pushed me under that truck."
While Greene was under the truck, the storm flipped a car in the next parking space. His right elbow was rubbed raw.
At the North Little Rock Airport, the storm passed directly over the local office of the weather service. The tornado destroyed an airport hangar and flipped over several single-engine planes. A fuel truck was also toppled.
Damage also was reported in Benton at a mobile home park and a car dealership whose surveillance camera caught the storm on tape. After hitting Little Rock, the storm moved into the city's northeastern suburbs. Trees were reported down in Jacksonville and Cabot.
No deaths were reported as of Friday morning and authorities had no precise count on the extent of injuries.
Anticipating damage, Energy Arkansas requested line workers in neighboring states to stand by to help. Company spokesman James Thompson said there were 38,500 customers still without power Friday morning, adding, "It's going to be a long day."
The storm was part of a weather system that stretched from Texas to New England, where snow fell in some areas.
A strong thunderstorm struck the area around Denton County, Texas, early Friday, producing wind as high as 50 mph and damaging some homes.
The Arkansas storm contributed to traffic accidents when it passed through the Little Rock metropolitan area of about 500,000 people. A separate storm downed trees at the University of Central Arkansas campus in Conway.
In Cammack Village, a community of 1,000 surrounded by northwest Little Rock, police and firefighters went door-to-door to check on residents. Paramedics tended to an elderly woman, who didn't appear seriously hurt. An oak tree blocked in neighbors on a cul-de-sac and water from torrential rains flowed down streets a half-foot deep.
Susann Walters, 55, said she hid in a closet with her two dogs and a cat as the storm approached.
"It was probably 30 to 45 seconds," Walter said. "It was quick."
A tree from her front yard smashed the hood and windshield of a neighbor's SUV but her bungalow home lost only a few shingles. She was still blocked in, though, with trees down across either end of the street.
"I'm not going anywhere," she said as lightning filled the sky and the roar of chainsaws pierced the night.
A second storm hit south of Little Rock later Thursday night but was not as potent.