September 24th,2005 - Posted at 11:10 p.m. CDT
UNDATED (AP) _ High winds and torrential rain blew across the southeastern two-thirds of Arkansas today as the remnants of Hurricane Rita made their way into the state. Rita was downgraded to a tropical storm this afternoon after making landfall early today along the Louisiana-Texas state line.The winds in Arkansas included possible tornadoes. They downed trees and demolished homes, but only minor injuries were reported.
Lieutenant Jim Kulesa of the Lonoke County sheriff's office said a mobile home was destroyed along U-S 70 between Lonoke and North Little Rock, but no one was inside. He said several accidents onInterstate 40 stemmed from the weather, as very heavy rain blinded some motorists while other vehicles hydroplaned on standing water.
The National Weather Service said a law enforcement officer reported a possible tornado touchdown two miles north of Jacksonville, where trees and power lines were downed. The agency said another possible tornado was reported by an officer five miles north of Conway, but no damage was sighted. High winds that included possible tornados also damaged several houses and a church at Searcy, but only minor injuries were reported.
In southern Arkansas, the storms broke the region's drought, but also brought down trees and power lines and flooded roads.The stormy weather aborted the final day of the Columbia County Fair at Magnolia, with carnival ride operators dismantling their equipment Saturday morning. At El Dorado, a tanker truck delivering gasoline to a convenience store was blown over by high winds that also downed trees on several city streets and UnionCounty roads. Union County Sheriff Ken Jones said a woman was trapped in her home in Huttig by a fallen tree, but police officers, firefightersand neighbors were able to free her unharmed.
Bill Luther, Entergy customer service manager for the region,said power outages were widespread across southern Arkansas. He said about 63-hundred Entergy customers lost their electricity in Union County for a time, while 27-hundred customers were without power in Columbia County, 650 in Ouachita County.