Possible tornado reported in Springdale; school gymnasium destroyed in storms
SPRINGDALE — Forecasters said they believed a tornado touched down in Springdale early Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service in Tulsa.
“We’re pretty sure it was a tornado,” meteorologist Joe Sellers said around 8:45 a.m.
The suspected tornado touched down around 4 a.m., he said.
Sellers said Weather Service staff saw photos on social media of damage in Springdale, including George Elementary, 2838 S. Powell St.
Social media posts from the district say the elementary school’s gymnasium was destroyed and a kitchen and cafeteria were badly damaged by severe thunderstorms Wednesday morning.
The school district is closed for the day.
“Maintenance personnel are assessing damage to all buildings in the Springdale School District,” the district said in the post. “Thank you to the Springdale Police Department, the City of Springdale and the first responders who worked so quickly to serve our families.”
A Springdale Police Department social media post says Old Missouri Road will be closed for much of the day between Emma Avenue and Robinson Avenue.
A post on the National Weather Service’s Twitter page shortly before 8:30 a.m. read, “We have received multiple damage reports in the Springdale area. We will investigate the damage today to determine the official cause, required ratings, etc., and will update as soon as we have that information.
Benton County Public Safety Administrator Robert McGowen said no storm damage was reported in the county.
— Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, with information provided by Brianna Kwasnik
9:19 a.m.: Much of Arkansas under tornado watch; severe thunderstorm warning in effect for parts of the state
Much of the state is under tornado watch through 1 p.m. Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service. Several counties in northern Arkansas are also under severe thunderstorm warnings until 10 a.m.
The severe thunderstorm warning is in effect for parts of Searcy, Newton, Marion, Boone, Baxter and Fulton counties.
Severe thunderstorm warnings were in place for other parts of northern and central Arkansas, although those warnings have since expired.
The greatest risk of widespread damaging winds is generally east of the Interstate 30/US 67 corridor, while the greatest risk of tornadoes is around the southeastern third of the state, according to a briefing. Wednesday morning from the National Weather Service.
Storms that turn severe will be capable of producing damaging winds of over 80 mph and a few brief, weak tornadoes, forecasters say. The hail threat is low.
A secondary but important concern is strong non-stormy wind gusts of up to 60 mph, with the strongest gusts again expected over eastern parts of the state, the briefing said.
Winds could be strong enough to knock down trees and cause power outages, forecasters said. Conditions on lakes and rivers in the area will be extremely dangerous and driving large vehicles could be difficult, according to the briefing.
Forecasters said heavy rain is possible, which could cause localized flash flooding.
Showers and thunderstorms will progress east across the state throughout Wednesday, the briefing said.
The threat of severe weather is expected to increase as storms move through the eastern half of the state in the late morning or early afternoon, according to the briefing.
According to the Weather Service, there have been multiple reports and photos of possible tornado damage in Springdale, which includes roof damage to homes and structural damage to an elementary school gymnasium, downed utility poles and damage to trees.
The Springdale School District is closed today due to power outages and the potential for severe weather according to a district news release.
In Polk County, a tree fell on a mobile home, according to a weather service damage report. The report does not indicate where anyone was injured.
An online map provided by SWEPCO shows that thousands of customers are without power in Washington County.
— Brianna Kwasnik, with information provided by the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette