Region & State

Three Arkansas counties hit by tornadoes declared major disaster zones

Cousins Mya Lugo, left, and Khloe Lugo, both 8, stand with some of their belongings on Shackleford Road in west Little Rock Friday afternoon. Their home was damaged by the tornados that tore across the city. | John Sykes/Arkansas Advocate

By SONNY ALBARADO | Arkansas Advocate

President Joe Biden on Sunday declared a major disaster exists in Arkansas because of Friday’s tornadoes that struck Pulaski, Lonoke and Cross counties.

The declaration makes federal funding available to individuals, businesses and government agencies for recovery and disaster mitigation.

Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who requested the declaration on Saturday, expressed appreciation in a statement Sunday:

“I’d like to express my thanks to President Biden and our federal partners for their speedy approval of my Major Disaster Declaration request. It’s clear that the damage caused by Friday’s tornadoes is significant and widespread,” Sanders said. “I will continue to work with our first responders, law enforcement, volunteers, and state and local leaders to help Arkansans recover. Arkansas stands strong. I know we will come back from this.”

Sanders was scheduled to tour tornado damage in the Cross County city of Wynne on Sunday afternoon. She visited affected sites Saturday in Pulaski County.

The Pulaski and Cross county tornadoes were part of a storm system that sliced through at least eight states, killing at least 21 people, according to ABC News.

“There’s nothing we can do to heal the hole left in the hearts of far too many families who lost loved ones this weekend, but we will be there every step of the way as they rebuild and recover,” Biden said in a later statement about the death and destruction.

The twister that tore through Wynne on Friday killed at least four people. One person died in North Little Rock and none in Little Rock as a result of the storm that struck Pulaski County, according to officials.

After a preliminary damage survey, the National Weather Service at Little Rock assigned the Pulaski County tornado an EF3 rating on the Fujita scale with peak winds of 165 mph. The service said it was the strongest twister to hit Little Rock since 1999.

Friday’s tornado “tracked roughly 32 miles from west Little Rock through North Little Rock, Sherwood and Jacksonville (all in Pulaski County) before finally weakening on the south side of Cabot (Lonoke County),” the weather service said on its website.

Entergy Arkansas, the state’s major power company, reported early Sunday afternoon that roughly 15,300 customers in Pulaski and Cross counties remained without electricity, down from more than 54,000 on Friday.

North Little Rock Electric reported 6,491 customers without power as of 1:30 p.m. Sunday, down from a peak of 13,618.

Entergy reported that its crews had completed nearly two-thirds of damage assessment in affected areas in Little Rock.

Power likely will be restored to many Pulaski County customers by 10 p.m. Thursday, the utility said, adding that restoring service to the most heavily damaged areas will take longer because of debris and the need to replace power poles.

“The storm caused extensive damage to the transmission grid” in Cross County, Entergy reported. “Multiple areas were identified where transmission equipment had become entangled with distribution equipment — these entanglements add increased complications to the process of restoring power safely.”

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