Powerful thunderstorms in Arkansas are being blamed for several deaths as heavy rain caused flash flooding and strong winds brought down trees and power lines. By Sunday afternoon rain had moved out of the state and flood waters were beginning to recede, but Entergy Arkansas says it could be a few days before all power is restored.
Late Sunday afternoon Gov. Asa Hutchinson declared a state of emergency. The Arkansas Department of Emergency Management has activated its State Emergency Operations Center and is handling requests for assistance from counties. Shelters had also been opened for displaced residents in Benton, Greenbrier and Jonesboro.
In a statement, Governor Hutchinson said:
Our prayers go out to the families who lost loved ones in the heavy rain and storms last night. I also thank our first responders who have worked tirelessly to provide assistance. This afternoon I declared a State of Emergency for Arkansas to ensure that we have in place available resources to assist counties affected by last night’s storms. ADEM continues to coordinate with counties on damage assessments.
In northwest Arkansas, Springdale Police say a 10-year-old girl was found dead about midnight Saturday after she climbed a fence in her backyard and was swept away by waters. Firefighters in Eureka Springs say the body of a woman who was riding an inner tube in a creek was found Sunday morning after she disappeared Saturday night.In east-central Arkansas police say 65-year-old Julia Schwede was killed Saturday night when a tree was blown into her home in DeWitt.
In Madison County in northwest Arkansas, the sheriff's office says an 18-month-old girl and a 4-year-old boy haven't been found after the vehicle they were in was swept off a bridge near Hindsville.
A volunteer fire chief was killed when he was struck by a vehicle shortly before 4 a.m. while checking water levels on Highway 25 near Quitman. Arkansas State Police identified him as Cove Creek/Pearson Fire Chief Doug Decker. It wasn't know if he will be included as a storm-related death.
Numerous roads and highways were closed across much of the northern half of Arkansas because of flooding. Several inches of rain fell in a short period of time in many areas.
Entergy Arkansas reports it had a peak number of outages at 7:30 a.m. Sunday with 71,000 customers. On its website, the utility said:
About 400 workers are on the job now with 500 more on the way. While many will be restored today and more hour by hour as the work continues, it will be several days before the restoration is completed in some areas. Current efforts are focused on scouting damage so resources can be deployed strategically. Remember to stay away from downed power lines.
Electric cooperatives around the state also reported thousands of outages.
The National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma, reported the storm system was moving eastward out of the state on Sunday, but flood warnings and watches remain in effect for much of the day.
Associated Press reports contributed to this story.