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1 dead, many more injured as tornado rips through heavily populated neighborhoods in Little Rock, Arkansas

By Sarah May
|
April 2, 2023

A devastating tornado tore through the Little Rock, Arkansas area on Friday, leaving a path of destruction in its wake, with at least five fatalities reported in the state and scores more injuries, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

The National Weather Service reportedly tracked no fewer than three dozen reports of unconfirmed tornado sightings across Arkansas, Tennessee, Illinois, and Iowa as the severe storm season gets off to a frightening start.

Devastating aftermath

According to the Daily Mail, in the wake of the storm, the hospital at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences declared a level-1 mass casualty situation, enabling the area's only major trauma center to stand on alert for an influx of patients.

Another area hospital reportedly received 21 patients, five of whom were in critical condition, all of whom had sustained injuries due to the tornado.

As the Mail noted, entire expanses of neighborhoods were leveled by the winds, which the National Weather Service said reached speeds of up to 165 miles per hour.

Uprooted trees, flipped vehicles, and roofs torn off of structures were among the forms of damage encountered by local residents who rushed to seek shelter before the life-threatening storm exited the area.

“It brings tears to your eyes”

As local Fox affiliate KLRT reported, North Little Rock Mayor Terry Hartwick provided a first-hand account of what he observed Friday afternoon when the massive twister made its way into the area.

“We watched it and of course it started hitting Burns Park. It was approximately 400 yards wide when it hit Burns Park, and for the next five and a half miles we just kept watching it and watching and watching,” Hartwick said.

The mayor indicated that the areas taking the brunt of the damage included Amboy, Lakewood, Indian Hills, and the Shady Valley area, noting that downed power lines led to outages for thousands of residents as well.

Hartwick said that even in the midst of the chaos, neighbors were stepping up to help others in an admirable way. “It brings tears to your eyes. The neatest thing is, I've got a lot of friends, they're calling, 'I got a chainsaw.' The people that want to help. It's really, really, pretty neat to see people try to volunteer their services.”

Governor surveys damage

Touring storm ravaged areas of West Little Rock on Saturday were Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Mayor Frank Scott, Jr., with the former confirming the current tally of five statewide deaths and acknowledging the significant scope of destruction that occurred as a result of the storm.

Standing amid the debris of a fire station damaged by the EF3 tornado, Sanders stated that she had spoken with President Joe Biden as well as Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, both of whom pledged federal assistance with the clean-up and rebuilding processes that lie ahead, according to the Democrat-Gazette.

“From a city, a county, a state and a federal perspective, I would say that everyone is working in total lockstep. And we're going to do everything we can to make sure that the people of our state are back on their feet again,” Sanders vowed.

Scott emphasized the need for understanding and cooperation in the immediate aftermath of the storm, adding, “We ask that everyone be patient as we are working to respond as quickly as possible to all the needs as we move forward.”

Wide swath of destruction

The same storm system that brought such devastation to Arkansas made its way through seven states Friday, as the Mail reported separately.

According to some tallies, upwards of 65 twisters made their way not just through Arkansas, but also made sojourns into Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee, leaving at least 11 dead.

A Kentucky reporter recounted the harrowing nature of his own experience in the storms, explaining that his truck was lifted off the roadway in Tennessee, leaving him visibly bruised and bloodied. “I truly believed I was going to die at the moment my car was picked up and tossed off the road,” said journalist Nick Sortor.

Friday's storms followed closely on the heels of last week's powerful tornadoes in Mississippi and Alabama, which left at least 26 dead, dozens injured, and countless homes and businesses reduced to rubble.