Was it a tornado? While we will have to wait until next week before we have the National Weather Service’s say on the subject, residents who experienced the worst of last night’s storm firsthand by-and-large believe that it was a twister.
The storm began to make its mark on Hempstead County around 1:30 a.m. when Central Dispatch started receiving calls of trees falling on and through houses, across roads and onto power lines. Calls came in around Battlefield Loop in Spring Hill (Hempstead 36) first and cascaded in from other areas as the storm worked its way northeast across the county.
Hempstead County Deputies, Hope Police Officers, Arkansas Game and Fish Officers, Arkansas State Troopers and firefighters began responding to the call and checking on residents in effected areas. The responders had to navigate through downed trees on foot while avoiding downed power lines to get to many of the homes to make sure everyone was ok.
There were a few people who were checked out for breathing difficulties by Pafford EMS when their oxygen machines lost power, but it appears no one was injured.
Sheriff James Singleton was out to assist his deputies shortly after reports of damage started coming and had a chance to see much of the damage in the county. Sheriff Singleton said that we were very fortunate that there were no injuries.
Hempstead County Judge Haskell Morse said that at this time, county road crews have all roads back open to traffic but there’s still a lot of work to left to do to clean up after the storm. Judge Morse said that the Office of Emergency management is conducting surveys of the damage in the county and will be presenting it to the National Weather Service when they come to Hempstead County to assess whether the damage was due to straight line winds or a tornado next week. Judge Morse said that the NWS assessment will have an impact on how property-owners insurance will pay out for damages.
Judge Morse said the storm appears to have cut a spotty track across the county, effecting residents around Battlefield Loop (Hempstead 36), Spring Hill Rd (Highway 174), Highway 29 S, Patmos Rd (Hempstead 3), 28th St., the Gunter Addition, Hempstead 117, Highway 32 E, Highway 278 E and Rocky Mound Rd (Highway 73 E).
Some residents have had their power restored but there is no official word on when the rest will have theirs back. Judge Morse said Hope Water & Light has been working non-stop and will have electricity back as soon as possible but they had a lot of downed lines to deal with. Judge Morse said that there were five power poles that had to be replaced just on Patmos Rd around Town Drive and Country Drive.
Those hit by the storm have been out clearing debris from their homes and yards since early morning, many having to clear trees just to get out of their driveways, but their spirits were high. One thing that was common as I made my way around and spoke to them, is that neighbors still look out for each other in Hempstead County. Whether it was making sure their neighbors had water and food, helping them clear trees and debris from their homes and driveways or walking over just to make sure they were ok, the people came together as a community to lift each other up.