This article is the first of a series reflecting on the news stories that impacted Arkadelphia and Clark County in 2022.
By KELLY STILES | The Arkadelphian
From a wildfire to a twister, 2022 weather left Clark County scorched and blown away.
On Jan. 31, a brush fire affecting an estimated 50 plus acres summoned emergency personnel to the wooded area near the junction of Shelton and Hearn roads, off of state Highway 8 west of Arkadelphia. The DeGray Fire Department, followed by the Arkadelphia, Gum Springs, Hollywood, Amity and Alpine fire departments and the Arkansas Forestry Commission, converged on the flames.
The Arkansas Forestry Commission dispatched two air tankers and a spotter plane. DeGray firefighters were summoned to the area a total of three times over a span of two days. In the end, no homes were affected by the fire, according to Tate Chanler, director of the county’s Office of Emergency Management.
About one month later, a group gathered at Ruggles-Wilcox Funeral Home to remember the March 1, 1997 tornado, 25 years after the pivotal Arkadelphia tragedy. The natural disaster claimed six lives and leveled homes and businesses, including the funeral home. Clark County Judge Troy Tucker and Arkadelphia City Manager Gary Brinkley read a joint proclamation marking March 1 as Tornado 1997 Remembrance Day.
Tucker, who was sheriff at the time of the tornado, announced the launch of a countywide rave alert system to notify residents of severe weather alerts or other public safety concerns. Brinkley reminded attendees that the horrific event brought positive change to the town. The tornado taught city leaders that it needed updated building codes and building code enforcement. Rebuilding efforts brought the construction of a new U.S. Post Office and Town Hall, as well as a facelift to the downtown area.
Just over a month after Tornado 1997 Remembrance Day, heavy winds affected the Arkadelphia area on April 10, pushing trees onto at least two houses and over Country Club Road near its intersection with Friendship Drive.
South Central Electric Cooperative reported 810 outages, while Entergy customers south of Walnut Street in the area of Elaine Street and Golden Street had no electricity. Arkadelphia Fire Chief Jason Hunt said firefighters responded to seven weather-related calls and reports of trees or large limbs falling onto power lines.
On Nov. 4, a twister visited Clark County. The National Weather service confirmed than an F1 tornado made contact with the ground northeast of Gurdon and traveled 5.5 miles before it weakened southeast of Gum Springs, having been on the ground for about five minutes. With a peak wind speed of 90 mph, the tornado traveled at a speed of about 55 mph, according to the weather service.
Harts Chapel, a church on Melugin Road in the Vaden community, was knocked off its foundation, while campers near it were flipped on their side. A handful of homes were damaged by strong winds and fallen trees.
The year was also one to remember for its dry, triple-digit summer that led to a countywide burn ban that lasted weeks before it was lifted. As 2022 neared its end, the temperature tides turned as an arctic blast of wintry air brought with it sub-zero temperatures in the days before Christmas.
Categories: News & History