Jonesboro, Ark., curfew lifted as utility crews, police work making progress in stricken areas
EF-3 tornado hammered Jonesboro, destroys dozens of homes March 28; NWS confirms another tornado that touched down in Jackson County was an EF-1 with a track of 5 miles.
JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - A week after an EF-3 tornado hammered the city of Jonesboro, city officials announced Saturday, April 5, that a curfew in effect for the city has been lifted.
According to a media release from Jonesboro City Communications Director Bill Campbell, both Mayor Harold Perrin and Police Chief Rick Elliott announced the lifting after an evaluation Saturday morning of the area hit by the tornado.
“As far as tornado cleanup, our City of Jonesboro teams, Craighead County and untold volunteers from around the state and beyond, we are in remarkably better shape,” Elliott said in a statement to Region 8 News.
Jonesboro police had said a curfew was in effect from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. until further notice. City officials said the curfew has helped both in tornado response and in the battle against COVID-19. No one should be on the streets during those hours unless they are traveling to or from work.
On Wednesday, Jonesboro police said they had been running 12-hour shifts but would be returning to an eight-hour shift starting Thursday morning.
Also, Elliott said the Turtle Creek Mall command post will be closing.
Campbell also said Saturday that one obstacle that the city has faced since the March 28 tornado is contractors leaving debris along curb sides.
Campbell noted that anyone that hires a person to do cleanup work is also responsible for hauling off the material.
Also, the city’s code enforcement director, Mike Tyner, is asking residents with storm debris to ensure haul off is included in any contract that the worker perform the duty.
On Monday, the Red Cross reported it had surveyed 80% of the damage. Thus far, 83 homes were destroyed, 66 received major damage, 309 received minor damage, 10 homes were classified as ‘affected,’ and 20 had no damage.
Two parks department and three firemen were among those whose homes were either destroyed or severely damaged.
Kevan Imboden with City Water and Light said they are “hopeful” to have power fully restored to every customer by 3 p.m. Tuesday. Customers who do not have power should call 870-935-5581 to report an outage.
The tornado has been rated by the National Weather Service as an EF-3. An EF-3 is described as winds as severe as 136–165 m.p.h. and causes severe damage. Preliminary results from the NWS in Memphis said the Jonesboro tornado had maximum winds of 140 m.p.h. An EF-1 averages winds 86–110 m.p.h. and causes moderate damage.
A second tornado was rated in southeast Greene County at EF-1.
The Craighead County Tax Assessor told people today, that 2020 taxes are still due, but they will be going around while the damage is recent, to appraise your house while it’s damaged to help when taxes are due in 2021.
Governor Asa Hutchinson declared Jonesboro a state natural disaster and will be seeking a federal declaration as well.
All of the businesses destroyed in the tornado are also eligible for COVID-19 unemployment help.
Every small business destroyed by the tornado is eligible for a small business disaster loan, and the local banks will help those small business owners.
Officials estimate the damages at “several hundred million dollars,” with the Mall at Turtle Creek sustaining at least $100 million.
See the Governor’s full press conference in Jonesboro:
Emergency officials say there were 22 injuries, 2 required hospitalization with non-life threatening injuries. There were no fatalities.
Jonesboro Fire Chief Kevin Miller says they have completed their search and rescue efforts, and have now switched to a recovery and cleanup effort.
Crews on Airport Road reported no injuries and only minor gas leaks from a few cars that were thrown upside down.
Jonesboro Airport has also been searched and cleared. Two airplanes will require heavy machinery in order to move. Camfil, 3505 Airport Rd., which took a direct hit, has also been searched and cleared.
Internet is also an issue with Ritter Communications also taking a hit at one of their locations.
Janet Meahan, an official with Suddenlink, said Wednesday that crews are still working to address outage issues due to the tornado.
“Our crews have been working diligently to repair the extensive damage to our network caused by the tornado in order to restore service to our Suddenlink customers. We have made great progress in our restoration efforts and most of our Jonesboro customers are back online, and our teams continue to work to ensure service is returned to everyone as quickly as possible," Meahan said. "As a reminder, the power companies must first clear an area before we are able to enter the area to repair our fiber lines, and commercial power also must be restored in order for customers to be able to use their services. We thank our customers for their patience during this extremely challenging time as well as our local employees for their continued efforts to provide service and support to the Jonesboro community.”
According to Jonesboro City Communications Director Bill Campbell, the city has applied for several grants to help with the tornado aftermath.
Campbell said the city applied for a $2.4 million Economic Development Administration grant for a rail expansion, as well as a $14 million BUILD grant for the project; a Community Development Block Grant to help with sidewalks, community non-profits, the Veterans Village and other issues; and are working with community partners on funding from the state for an immediate temporary homeless shelter.
Other grants include a National League of Cities Rapid Census Response Grant to help complete the census, National League of Cities Southern Stronger Communities Initiative Grant for Litter, a cigarette litter grant, No Kid Hungry Grant, which will help students who are out of school, a Federal Transit Administration grant for a new shelter for bus stops, Petco Foundation Tornado Relief for the animal shelter and Department of Justice COVID-19 supplemental grant for the police department.
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The tornado ripped through Race Street and Caraway Road, destroyed the Mall at Turtle Creek, numerous homes in neighborhoods, and continued on through Brookland, and did damage at the Arkansas/Missouri border.
Jonesboro officials continue to ask people to stay home and not go out and sightsee the damage.
Jonesboro Fire Chief Kevin Miller said, “Jonesboro and people from all around Northeast Arkansas really rallied fast to give us a hand, and it was inspiring.”
Josh Egbert, regional communications and marketing manager for the American Red Cross, said the group is working with the local authorities to help with shelters.
“The American Red Cross of Northeast Arkansas is currently assessing the needs of the residents affected by the Jonesboro tornado,” Egbert said. “We’re working with local county emergency management officials...to determine what the needs are going forward.”
Several area churches will also provide disaster relief beginning Monday at 3 p.m. According to Brad Partee, it will be located at the Nettleton Church of Christ, 3251 E. Highland Dr. There will be food, water, cleaning supplies, and any other additional items needed. They will also be available from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. every day beginning Tuesday, March 31.
On Tuesday, March 31, cleanup continued at the Mall at Turtle Creek, which took a direct hit from the tornado.
Bookfield Properties spoke with Region 8 News Tuesday and said they’re working with officials and structural engineers to secure the site and start the recovery process.
Kreg McKee, a lineman for Ritter Communications, said he’s never seen damage like this, but they’ve been able to restore power and get most of their customers up and running again.
“But, there’s a bunch of little off-shoots everywhere, so probably a couple of weeks, or less. We’re all hoping less,” McKee said.
McKee said contractors have come in from Mississippi to help.
He said he’s grateful to see everyone pitching in to help clean up Jonesboro as fast as possible.
On Wednesday, April 1, the Craighead County crisis response team will come together and their focus is on providing mental health support to the community.
The group is reportedly considering offering free counseling services to people who need it.
Best Buy was demolished at The Mall at Turtle Creek Saturday, and Sunday afternoon they released the following statement to Region 8 News:
We are truly heartbroken to see the damage caused by yesterday’s tornado in Jonesboro. Nothing is more important to us than the safety of our employees and customers, and thankfully, all of our Jonesboro store employees are safe and accounted for. The store is closed for now and we’ll let you know when we’re ready to reopen.”
Target also sustained damage at the mall, but otherwise escaped the devastation the rest of the mall sustained.
The Crazy Train Flea Market, across from Gamble Home Furnishings, was also destroyed and is closed until further notice.
At the time of the tornado, Craighead Electric reported it had nearly 2,250 customers without power. As of 1 p.m. Sunday, power was restored to everyone.
According to ArDOT, the damage also included a train derailment northwest of Brookland. The train was carrying 104 containers total, with half of the train flipped on one side of the track, and the other half on the other side of the track.
ASU System President Chuck Welch said classes were canceled for Monday, and online classes to resume until the end of the semester.
The severe weather system Saturday afternoon first brought a reported tornado to the Jackson County area, with the National Weather Service issuing tornado warnings for the region.
According to the NWS, power lines were reported down in the Algoa and Amagon area around 4:25 p.m., while a funnel cloud was spotted south of Waldenburg around 4:25 p.m.
The NWS rated that storm an EF-1 with a track 5.33 miles long and a width of 200 yards.
A funnel cloud was reported near Cash around 4:47 p.m., with the storm arriving in the Jonesboro area around 5:20 p.m., according to the NWS.
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