Little Rock Ripped By Giant Twister

Gregory Greene has lived in this part of Tornado Alley for all of his 39 years and had never seen a tornado.

Until, that is, Thursday night.

"I thought I was going to die," Greene said after a twister swept through Little Rock and many of its suburbs Thursday night. 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," Greene said. While he was under the truck, the storm flipped a car in the next parking space. His right elbow was rubbed raw.

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At the North Little Rock Airport, the storm passed directly over the local office of the weather service. The tornado destroyed an airport hangar, left several single-engine planes flipped over onto their wings and destroyed other aircraft. 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.

The tornado storm contributed to traffic accidents when it passed through the metropolitan area of about 500,000 people. A number of shelters were set up at churches in the region. A separate storm downed trees at the University of Central Arkansas campus in Conway.

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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 about 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 30-45 seconds," Walter said. "It was quick."

A tree from her front yard smashed the hood and front windshield of a neighbor's SUV but her bungalow home only lost a few shingles. She was still blocked in though, with trees down across either end of the street.

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"I'm not going anywhere," she said as lightning filled the sky and the roar of chainsaws pierced the night.

A second storm hit much of the same area south of Little Rock later Thursday night but was not as potent.

Anticipating damage, the state's largest electric utility, Entergy Arkansas, requested line workers in neighboring states to stand by to help. Outages were widespread but a number of homes and businesses affected wasn't immediately known, spokesman James Thompson said.

Over the past two months, parts of Arkansas have seen a tornado during a storm outbreak that killed 13, a foot of snow, more than a foot of rain and near-record flooding.

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