LITTLE ROCK — Two tornadoes and strong winds caused injuries and damages in Arkansas on Tuesday night and early Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service.
The tornadoes occurred in White County shortly after 7 p.m. Tuesday, said meteorologist Jeff Hood with the weather service’s North Little Rock office.
An EF-1 tornado struck Higginson, and a few minutes later Kensett was struck by a tornado that according to preliminary estimates was an EF-2, Hood said. An EF-1 tornado has winds of 73 to 112 mph and an EF-2 tornado has winds between 113 and 157 mph.
Hood said the weather service would complete its investigation of the Kensett tornado Thursday.
At least four people were injured in Higginson and at least one person was injured in Kensett, Hood said. Numerous homes were damaged and trees and power lines were downed in the two towns, he said.
In the early morning hours Wednesday, a second round of severe weather swept across the northern half of the state, bringing high winds.
“In some cases the damage was as severe as a tornado would have been,” Hood said.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Wednesday, “We were very fortunate not to have any loss of life, but there are many that homes destroyed or damaged as well as tens of thousands of Arkansas without power.”
Hutchinson said he likely would issue a disaster declaration after damage assessments were conducted.
Solomon Graves, spokesman for the state Department of Correction, said in a statement that one employee of the department was injured and staff housing at the department’s Grimes Unit in Newport received heavy damage in the morning storms.
Six mobile homes were damaged, according to initial reports, Graves said.
“Efforts are underway to provide temporary housing to the displaced employees,” he said in the statement. “Additional damage was sustained to the roof of the gym, A/C units, and to exterior storage buildings at the Grimes Unit. The department is working closely with local emergency services personnel to continue to assess the damage. No inmates were injured.”
More than 8,000 customers of Entergy Arkansas were still without power by 8 p.m. Wednesday, according to the company’s website.