STORM DAMAGE: The home of Roger Smith located on Dove Field Lane in southeastern Fulton County was destroyed when a possible tornado ripped the county around 8 p.m. Nov. 27. The Smith mobile home was located near his parents' home where he sought cover before the storm hit. He was not injured. (Photo/Sisk Lawrence)
Heavy rain and high winds whipped through Fulton County between 7:30 and 8 p.m. Nov. 27.
As of press time, officials with the National Weather Service had not confirmed that a tornado touched down, but Fulton County Emergency Management Coordinator Al Roark said he thinks the storm will be declared either an F-1 or an F-2 tornado.
"There were other areas of the state that received more severe damage than we did. Down around Conway, I believe a person may have been killed, so (officials with the National Weather Service) will look at the damage in the central portion of the state before coming here," Roark said.
Crews first responded to Highway 87 near the communities of Elizabeth and Vidette where the road was blocked by fallen trees.
"The old Peace Valley Road area of the county (near Agnos) was one of the hardest hit communities in the county," Willett said. A mobile home belonging to Danny Gwaltney was blown over on its side. Gwaltney was out of town and no one was injured.
Large oak and cedar trees that were downed by the wind closed Peace Valley Road and Vista Oak Road Sunday night.
Willlett said more than half of the county road crew, as well as members of local fire departments, first responders and many volunteers, helped in the effort to clear the roads. "We are very appreciative of everyone who helped clear the roads that night," the judge said.
Another area of the county that received heavy damage was across Highway 62/412 at Walking Horse Lane just off Highway 289. The road was closed due to downed trees, and a garage and a boat at the Charlie Johnson residence on the road were damaged.
County Road crew members John Emery, Harry Brickey, Ralph Barton, Jamie Foster, Steve Moss, Frank Auten and Lale Brown worked a portion of the morning clearing the trees and debris from the road.
Judge Willett said he and the county crews worked from 8 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. clearing roads "I received another call about 4:30 a.m. of roads blocked due to fallen trees and we went back to work again," Willett said.
"I filed an emergency proclamation at 7:30 a.m. this morning (Nov. 28) with the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management. This will help reimburse the county for the extra work, including labor and materials, caused by the storm," the judge said.
He said he has also applied for a grant from the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management for a tornado warning siren he thinks the county needs, but he has not heard from the agency yet.
Possum Trot Road and Dove Field Lane, also off Highway 289, both received extensive damage due to the storm.
The Smith family lives on Dove Field Lane where a Mallard camper and a lawnmower shed were destroyed. "I don't know if it was a tornado or straight-line winds," said Mike Smith. "Everything happened real fast. It was about 8 p.m. The electricity went out and I sent my wife to the basement. I didn't have time to get down there and I didn't have time to be scared. It was a wild night," Smith said.
He said he had owned the camper about two years. "It must have been a strong wind because the camper weighed between 5,800 and 6,000 pounds," he said. His brother, Roger Smith, lives in a mobile home just up the hill from his home. The mobile home was moved approximately 10 feet and overturned by wind. It was destroyed. The only thing salvaged from the home was a couple of mattresses and a bed headboard and footboard.
Tornado warnings were issued by the National Weather Service at approximately 7 p.m. for Baxter, Fulton and Izard counties, with a warning being issued for Sharp County soon afterward. Sharp County Judge Joe Stidman said there were a few tree limbs down throughout the county but no extensive damage. He did say a possible tornado or tornados may have touched down along the Sharp/Izard/Fulton County borders.
North Arkansas Electric Cooperative Member Service Manager Jerry Estes said the coop crews worked through the night restoring electricity to over 6,000 people in Fulton and Baxter counties and the Ash Flat area. "The storm started in our western service area and just traveled east," Estes said. He said the first reports of power outages began coming in around 7:30 p.m.
"We at NAEC always appreciate the patience of our members when a storm like this hits. We know it gets frustrating when they can't get through on the phone," he said.
Judge Willett said as bad as the damage in the county was people were lucky and he was thankful no one was hurt.