Number of homes in Springdale damaged by tornado estimated at 60; utility says power should be back to all customers by 8 p.m.
SPRINGDALE – About 60 homes in Springdale suffered significant damage Wednesday morning when an EF3 tornado cut a five-mile path through the eastern part of town, according to Salvation Army Area Commander Capt. Joshua Robinett .
Robinett said his information came from the American Red Cross, but John Brimley, a spokesman for the Red Cross, said on Thursday that official damage assessment figures – including the number of homes damaged, the displaced persons and dollar figures – are determined by local officials. .
Colby Fulfer, chief of staff for the city of Springdale, said Thursday the city will work with the state’s Department of Finance and Administration to determine the estimated costs of the tornado’s damage to public property. Springdale Mayor Doug Sprouse and Washington County Judge Joseph Wood both issued disaster declarations on Wednesday.
The Washington Regional Medical Center in Fayetteville announced Thursday afternoon that all patients injured by the tornado had been discharged. Calls and emails to Northwest Medical Center in Springdale were not returned Thursday. A Springdale Police spokesman said Wednesday that seven people were taken to hospital, two of them seriously injured.
The tornado touched down in Johnson at 4:04 a.m. near the Northwest Arkansas Mall and traveled 5 miles before lifting at 4:12 a.m. east of Springdale Municipal Airport, according to the Tulsa National Weather Service. , Ok so. had peak wind speeds of 143 mph, the service reported.
Social media users reported that warnings about the storm weren’t sent until 4:11 a.m. Bart Haake, a National Weather Service meteorologist, confirmed on Thursday that the Weather Service’s tornado warning was sent. at 4:11 a.m.
Haake said radar gave no indication of the tornado before it happened. He was not working Wednesday but said he checked radar reports from that morning.
“It popped up there suddenly, like things do in the environment of this type of storm,” he said.
Wednesday’s storm was not the classic large supercell storm, Haake said. He was very small in comparison and moved very fast.
Reports reviewed by Haake showed the warnings were issued in the correct order, he said. Weather service notifications reach all cellphone users through the National Wireless Emergency Alert System, Haake said. Tornado warnings, flash flood warnings and several other high-end warnings will automatically be delivered directly to wireless users in an affected county if their device is compatible.
The storm also spawned a second tornado on Wednesday, according to the weather service. An EF-1 tornado moved through a rural area of Johnson County about 3 1/2 hours after the Springdale strike, said Willie Gilmore, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in North Little Rock.
He said the Johnson County tornado had winds around 100 mph. It landed about seven miles north-northeast of Hartman and traveled 3.5 miles before taking off at 7:53 a.m., seven miles north-northwest of Clarksville. Gilmore said the tornado passed through the community of Harmony but primarily damaged trees.
Klay Rowbotham, assistant director of emergency management for Johnson County, said portions of Arkansas 103 and County Roads 3390, 3290 and 3259 were to be cleared of debris Thursday.
“We had an old chicken coop with sheet metal ripped out, tangled in power lines and all that fun stuff. That’s about all we’ve reported so far,” he said. “So no injuries, no houses or anything like that damaged that we’ve been told to date.”
The Springdale Weather Service team reported the tornado to be 350 meters wide.
The tornado developed south of Joyce Boulevard and east of Steele Boulevard, southwest of the Northwest Arkansas Mall, reads a report from weather service officials who came to Springdale.
The tornado approached East Emma Avenue at Springdale Municipal Airport, where it appeared to dissipate, the weather service said.
James Smith, Springdale’s director of public works, reported a blown door and a ripped wall from the town shop building at the airport. He also reported damage to sheds owned by George’s Inc. and Robert Squires.
Debris on the runway closed the airport on Wednesday, but normal operations resumed this afternoon, Smith said.
The tornado damaged businesses, downed trees, rolled over a pickup truck, then moved through the western portion of the mall, according to the weather service report. As the storm moved north-northeast near the mall, the tornado blew up a cellphone tower and destroyed a building near Main Drive in Johnson, the report said.
Significant sections of the roofs of several homes were blown off on Pagosa Street in Springdale, and a vehicle was overturned in a driveway.
The tornado then destroyed the gymnasium at George Elementary School, which was a metal building unattached to the school, and a house just north of the school, the weather service said. Wooden electric poles were broken nearby.
The Springdale School District reopened Thursday after closing Wednesday to assess damage to buildings in the district. Structural engineers deemed George Elementary safe despite damage to the kitchen and dining area, the district said in a statement. George Elementary has 64 staff and 623 students. The school was the only building in the district to be damaged in the storm.
About three-quarters of the Nilfisk Advance Inc. factory and warehouse at 979 E. Robinson Ave. — also a metal building — were destroyed when the tornado approached East Sunset Avenue, the Weather Service reported. The building sits on approximately 9 acres with 200,000 square feet of interior space, according to the Washington County Assessor’s Office website.
Scott Edmondson, vice president of economic development at the Springdale Chamber of Commerce, said the company makes equipment for cleaning industrial floors. The company did not respond to email inquiries on Wednesday or Thursday.
Debris from the tornado was transported into Benton County, the report concludes.
The Red Cross housed three people on Wednesday night in a shelter the organization set up at Journey NWA Church on South Mantegani Road in Tontitown. Brimley said the shelter will close at noon today.
Robinett said a Salvation Army relief unit delivered 150 meals Wednesday to areas affected by the tornado and was working Thursday afternoon to prepare 200.
Southwestern Electric Power Co. crews continue to work to restore power to approximately 573 customers, reads a company statement. At its peak, about 9,000 customers in northwest Arkansas were without power between 5 and 6 a.m. Wednesday, the report continues.
Customers of Arkansas 265 near the Northwest Technical Institute and those between Springdale Municipal Airport and South Turner Street can expect their service to return at 8 p.m. today, according to the release.
The town has based a command center for volunteers at its leisure center on Cambridge Street. A team from the Southern Baptist State Convention Disaster Relief program is leading the effort. The group has about 50 volunteers in Springdale who help residents clean up and serve two meals a day at Cross Church.
City officials are urging all residents who wish to volunteer for the cleanup to come to the recreation center.
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reporter Bill Bowden and Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reporter Monica Brich contributed to this report.