Authorities release name of victim in Leachville tornado
Two killed in tornadoes Friday evening, curfew declared in Leachville, Trumann
JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - The assistant manager at the Dollar General store in Leachville was killed Friday in the tornado at Leachville.
According to an official in the Mississippi County Judge’s Office, June Pennington of Leachville died in the tornado.
As officials released details about the fatality, the work continued Sunday as crews work in the aftermath of tornadoes that struck Monette, Leachville and Trumann.
An emergency was declared for several counties in Region 8 Saturday after tornadoes Friday evening killed two people and injured five others.
The tornado also caused the Buffalo Island Central School District to cancel classes Dec. 13, using an AMI day, for students, according to Superintendent Gaylon Taylor.
A decision is expected later Sunday on whether or not the Trumann School District will be closed Monday.
A decision is also expected Sunday evening for students in the Riverside School District.
The Armorel School District will also be closed Monday due to a power outage from Friday’s storms.
Highway 135 in Craighead County remained blocked Sunday as utility crews continued work on downed power lines.
A curfew was also declared for the city of Leachville from sunset to sunrise, starting Saturday evening.
Officials also said all roads going into and out of the town will be shut down and no one will be allowed outside their homes unless there is an emergency.
There were some reports of looting Friday evening in Leachville and authorities are wanting to prevent any further problems.
Also, minor injuries were reported throughout town due to the tornado.
Authorities said the woman who was killed Friday evening in Leachville worked as the assistant manager at the Dollar General.
A curfew is also in effect in Trumann from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. until further notice.
Officials said only emergency personnel will be allowed on the streets.
Trumann officials also updated the public Sunday about the ongoing work.
Trumann city officials will be meeting with the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management Sunday to discuss the future. Trumann police have canceled all days off and will be working 12-hour shifts until the situation subsides.
The city of Caruthersville is also a curfew due to a loss of power, while I-55 in Pemiscot County is partially closed due to the weather.
The Caruthersville School District will be closed Monday due to the storms.
The National Weather Service office in Little Rock confirmed Saturday three of the tornadoes Friday evening were in Jackson and Woodruff counties.
An 80-yard wide, EF-1 tornado was in Diaz, while a 500-yard, EF-2 tornado was reported in the Augusta and Overcup areas.
Also, a 30-yard, EF-1 tornado was confirmed southwest of Beedeville.
The Diaz and Beedeville tornadoes had winds of 86 to 110 mph, while the Augusta tornado had winds of 111 to 135 mph, according to the NWS.
The weather also caused a train to derail Friday evening in West Memphis.
According to city officials, crews started work Sunday to clean up the derailment.
Gov. Hutchinson visits Monette
On Saturday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson, along with state and local officials, toured the damage left from the tornado in Monette.
The nursing home received major damage.
The governor said the tornado, which hammered the Monette Manor Nursing Home, was catastrophic and that people in the area had between 15 to 20 minutes warning before the tornado hit.
Christmas gifts could also be seen inside the nursing home and an employee said a holiday party had been planned for Dec. 13.
Monette Mayor Bob Blankenship said the Craighead County town had a major tornado in 1984.
Since then, the town has become more prepared.
Blankenship said his town was helped by volunteer firefighters, people from surrounding towns, doctors and emergency staff Friday evening.
He said the work to help his community exemplifies a volunteer spirit in the area, the state and the country.
The Monette Church of Christ is also accepting clothing donations for people impacted by the storms.
They can be dropped off at 702 West Drew in Monette.
Leachville Fire Chief Drake Brown said Saturday that his city has been inundated with requests for help.
“We would like to thank all of the volunteers that have helped in the search and rescue mission as well as the cleanup. We have also received an outstanding amount of supplies (food, water, blankets, etc),” a post on the city’s fire department Facebook page noted.
The Red Cross also asked people to help with the emergency.
People can donate by going to the Red Cross website, calling 1-800-Red-Cross or by texting redcross to 90999 to give $10 to help.
Emerson Ambulance Service also said they are also accepting donations at the following locations Dec. 13 through 20 for people impacted by the tornadoes.
The locations include:
- Custom Detail, 3111 Colony Drive, Jonesboro.
- Curtis Chiropractor and Wellness Center, 3305 East Highland Drive, Suite A, Jonesboro.
- Emerson Ambulance Service, 1703 East Nettleton Ave., Jonesboro.
- Merritt Small Engine, 3306 B Southwest Dr., Jonesboro.
- Prospect Church, 1603 Highway 351, Jonesboro. Dec. 13 through 20 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Also, Back Roads Photography will be offering mini sessions for donations at the church from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 18 and at Emerson Ambulance Service Dec. 20.
Storms in region
The two people died Friday night when tornadoes swept through Northeast Arkansas, destroying homes and flattening a nursing home.
Craighead County Judge Marvin Day said one person died and five others were seriously injured when a tornado moved over the nursing home, trapping 20 people inside.
Initially, Day said two people died at the nursing home but the coroner’s office later revised the death toll to one.
Day has issued a state of emergency for the town.
Rep. Rick Crawford (R-Jonesboro) also issued a statement Saturday morning about the tornadoes in the region.
“I want to thank the many first responders who courageously answered the numerous calls that were made last night. I also want to thank the team at KAIT led by Ryan Vaughan, who kept everyone safe and aware of the rapidly changing conditions. KAIT, along with many others, stayed on-air throughout making sure the public was informed and what to expect,” Rep. Crawford said. “My office will continue to assist those who have experienced the worst of these storms in any way we can. I ask that each of us pray for the families who lost loved ones and also prayers of thankfulness for those who always answer the call for help every hour of every day in situations such as this.”
Officials said Saturday that a woman, later identified as Pennington, died when the tornado tore through a Dollar General store in Leachville, Mississippi County Sheriff Dale Cook said early Saturday.
As many as eight tornadoes moved across Northeast Arkansas and Southeast Missouri.
The storms also caused traffic problems Friday evening on Highway 135 and Highway 139 - two major roads in the area - due to power lines being down.
Entergy Arkansas said early Saturday morning that the utility was working to restore power.
“An extra 525 workers have been requested to assist crews in restoring power. The hardest hit areas are Blytheville, Searcy and Harrisburg areas. Just over 20,000 customers remain out across Arkansas. All areas except the hardest hit should have power by 10 pm tonight,” Entergy Arkansas said on social media.
By noon Sunday, the outage numbers were around 6,200.
Craighead Electric crews worked Friday and Saturday throughout the region to restore power.
More than 150 light poles were destroyed or damaged during the storms and crews continued work Saturday evening.
Monette, Leachville tornado impact
Downed power lines along Highways 135 and 139 hampered efforts to help people Friday evening.
A Monette woman told Region 8 News that she was at home under a staircase when the tornado came over.
While the storm damaged her home, she was okay.
The same could not be said for Adams Gin Company which was leveled, according to officials.
The Mississippi County Sheriff’s Office said the First Baptist Church, 1502 Main St., in Leachville is now a safe zone for people impacted by the tornado.
Tornado damages Trumann
Shortly before 9:30 p.m. Friday, another tornado swept through Trumann leaving “substantial damage” in its wake, including down trees and power lines.
The city’s fire department suffered significant damage, including having its roof ripped off, while damage was also reported on Mulberry Drive and Highway 69.
State highway crews were also busy Friday night and into Saturday, helping to clear Highway 69.
Damage was also reported along Melton Avenue.
A woman and her baby also took shelter in a bathtub at a house on Speedway Street.
Much like the twister in Monette, this storm also hit a nursing home.
While several injuries were reported, no one died.
Injuries were also reported at the nursing home as well as gas leaks.
Viewers reported damage in other parts of town, including along Main Street and Ozark Avenue.
Strong winds flipped over an 18-wheeler on Interstate 555 Friday evening just southwest of Trumann, blocking all lanes of southbound traffic.
According to IDriveArkansas, the big rig was leaking natural gas.
Powerlines were also reported down on Highway 1 South in Poinsett County. Police closed the highway until crews could clear the scene.
Storms move into area
The National Weather Service issued the first tornado warning at 5:51 p.m. Friday for Jackson, Lawrence, White, and Woodruff counties.
Four minutes later, the NWS reported a possible tornado moving northeast at 60 miles an hour was located between Bald Knob and Augusta.
Within a few minutes, the storm had traveled to Newport where it damaged a mobile home on Finnegan Avenue. Residents also reported damage near the George Kell Ballpark.
A possible tornado also touched down near the town of Amagon.
A short time later, the NWS issued another tornado warning for Craighead and Poinsett Counties.
At 6:49 p.m. Friday, a confirmed tornado was spotted moving up Highway 49 toward Gibson, Valley View, and Jonesboro.
The storm moved south of Jonesboro, downing power lines along Highway 1 South and forcing police to shut down the road to Harrisburg.
By 7:20 p.m. Friday, people living near Lake City were told to go to their tornado safe spots as the storm barreled down on the Craighead County community.
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