Another round of storms moved across Arkansas on Thursday, bringing heavy rain, hail and high winds to a state already contending with three weeks of flooding and 10 tornadoes from a week ago.
The Searcy County Sheriff's Department said some residents in the small north Arkansas town of Leslie were evacuated because of flooding and the threat of mudslides. Workers were sandbagging in places to keep flood waters at bay. U.S. Highway 65 was covered with water in places. Travelers were asked to stay off the roads.
"It's just getting worse," sheriff's dispatcher Nola Massey said. "We're just trying to get everybody to stay home and not get
out in it."
Schools in Norfork closed at 9:15 a.m. because of flooding. Marshall schools were closed because of high water, and the Buffalo National River in north Arkansas was closed to recreational users. About 1,000 customers of Entergy Arkansas lost power as tornado sirens blared in parts of central Arkansas, including Little Rock.
Many roads in southern Lonoke County were flooded, including Arkansas 13 near Carlisle and Arkansas 31 between Blakemore and Coy. Stone County also reported flood damage and Arkansas 263 in Cleburne County was impassable. Part of Arkansas 9 in Izard County was flooded, along with many county roads.
A number of washouts were reported on county roads in Sharp County.
At Little Rock National Airport, flights were suspended for about 50 minutes when a tornado warning was issued for the area. T.J. Williams, that airport's manager of media and marketing, said 300-400 people were moved to safe places away from windows.
"We suspended everything for a while until the weather passed. Those who were on planes deboarded and were brought inside," Williams said.
Most flights were back on schedule by early afternoon, and the airport reported no damage.
"It went incredibly well. The people were incredibly cooperative, and we all worked together and the event ended and we went on our way," Williams said.
Tornado warnings also were posted in several southwest Arkansas counties, including Columbia, Hempstead, Lafayette, Miller and Nevada.
"It's a two-headed monster this morning," National Weather Service forecaster John Lewis said Thursday, noting the flooding and threat of tornadoes.
Lewis said storms moving from Texas into Arkansas were setting the stage for possible twisters. "There is quite a lot of shear in the atmosphere, winds turning with height," Lewis said.
The Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., said conditions were right for supercell thunderstorms to develop ahead of the storm line moving through Arkansas. Tornadoes could develop within those supercells, the center said.
"The one saving grace is that this is developing earlier, rather than later in the day," Lewis said. With less heating, the atmosphere will not become as volatile, he said.
Early Thursday, water covered U.S. Highway 65 at St. Joe and the Viola School District was closed because of high water. Seventy mile per hour winds were reported accompanying the rains as they moved in from the northwest.
In Saline County, residents spent a week picking up blown-off shingles and cleaning culverts after the 10 tornadoes roared through central Arkansas the night of April 3.
With the storms coming Thursday, county officials had a new request - to borrow residents' flat-bottom and inflatable boats.