Winds, Lightning Rake Northeast Arkansas

JULY 5, 2005 - Posted at 11:28 a.m. CDT

JONESBORO, AR - Many of the fireworks in the sky last night over northeast Arkansas were natural, not man-made.  Fourth of July celebrations in many northeast Arkansas communities were dampened by rain that was nonetheless welcomed by farmers.  But the rain in several cases was in the form of thunderstorms with winds that blew away roofs, downed trees and utility poles, and lightning that set fires.

The storms also contributed to several traffic accidents.

The National Weather Service issued numerous thunderstorm warnings throughout the evening and also issued a flash flood warning for Craighead County.  The Weather Service also issued a tornado warning after a possible twister was spotted on radar in an area northeast of Forrest City.  A dispatcher in the St. Francis County Sheriff's office said no damage was reported except for power outages from utility poles blown down.  Classes have been temporarily interupted at East Arkansas Community College in Forrest City.

In Jonesboro, the Craighead County Sheriff's Department reported that downed power lines along U.S. 63 resulted in a six-car pileup on the roadway.  Jonesboro police said officers were called to several accidents in the city.  The Jonesboro Fire Department stayed busy with numerous calls, including a house fire believed to have been caused by lightning.  Meanwhile, the FreedomFest fireworks display that was scheduled for last night at the Northeast Arkansas District Fairgrounds has been postponed until 9:30 tonight.

In Randolph County, roofs were reported blown away, windows knocked out and trees down on top of homes.  Yonnia Layton, director of the 911 emergency call system for the county, said there were numerous problems in Pocahontas, including telephone and 911 system outages.  The worst damage reported was to several businesses along U.S. 67 in northeast Pocahontas, near downtown.  Layton said several businesses had windows blown out.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)