Several tornadoes that ripped through central Arkansas killed at least one person and injured two dozen others, destroying homes and leaving officials scrambling to clear debris even as they braced for more severe weather.
Damage assessments were under way in the community of Scotland as day broke in Van Buren County, about 75 miles north of Little Rock, where authorities said at least one person died in Friday night storms. A sheriff's department dispatcher said details were expected to be released later Saturday.
At least two dozen other people were hurt across Van Buren and several other counties, state Department of Emergency Management spokeswoman Renee Preslar said. Officials in many counties referred questions to the state agency, but Preslar said local authorities who provide her with updates hadn't released details about the severity of the injuries.
More storms — including tornadoes — could hit the state Saturday, said meteorologist Brian Smith with the National Weather Service in Little Rock.
"We have a lot of warm air over the area, warm and moist air. The atmosphere has a very high amount of wind energy available and a lot of instability, and as the day gets warming, that's all we need," Smith said.
Search teams Friday night located a person believed missing in the wreckage of a home in Center Ridge, while extensive property damage was reported across central Arkansas, Preslar said.
Tornado sightings were reported just a few miles north in Culpepper, according to Arkansas State Police. A sheriff's dispatcher said a sighting also was reported in the Oakland area, near the Missouri border. Trees and power lines blocked major roadways in both areas.
South of Little Rock in Saline County, high winds and heavy rains left nearly 3,000 people without power and forced about 100 to take shelter at an elementary school in East End late Friday, officials said.
Maria Atwater told the Arkansas Democrat Gazette she brought her parents to the school from their nearby home.
"My parents were in the storm cellar in the front of the house right where the trees are down now," Atwater said. "It just ripped up the yard."
Arkansas National Guard spokesman Capt. Chris Heathscott told the newspaper troops were mobilized to assist local authorities.
"That's what our taskings are right now, to provide search-and-rescue operations as well as assisting civil authorities with security in the area," he said.
John Robinson, warning coordinator meteorologist with the NWS in Little Rock, said a slow-moving front from the west touched off the severe weather Friday.
"We had spotty thunderstorms here and there, and those are the ones — the ones that sit out there by themselves — that end up being tornado producers," he said, noting Arkansas' tornado season generally peaks in April.
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