Year in Review 2017

Published: Dec. 30, 2017 at 6:42 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 31, 2017 at 5:31 PM CST
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Pocahontas and Randolph County residents faced historic flooding in May. (Source: KAIT)
Pocahontas and Randolph County residents faced historic flooding in May. (Source: KAIT)
The criminal justice department at ASU-Newport was named after Newport police Lt. Patrick...
The criminal justice department at ASU-Newport was named after Newport police Lt. Patrick Weatherford this year. Weatherford was responding June 12 to a vehicle break-in in Newport when he was shot and killed in the line of duty. (Source: KAIT)
One person was killed and six others were injured in May when a shooting happened at the...
One person was killed and six others were injured in May when a shooting happened at the Basement in downtown Jonesboro, police said at the time. (Source: KAIT)
Seven tigers, six lions and a leopard were found in September on a Poinsett County farm....
Seven tigers, six lions and a leopard were found in September on a Poinsett County farm. (Source: Arkansas Game and Fish Commission)

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - The year 2017 is about to come to a close and Region 8 has seen its share of interesting stories this year from snowstorms, tornadoes, and flooding to exotic animals and a disease who once thought to be gone making a comeback in the area.

Also, people said goodbye to a Newport police officer and a Clay County farmer had the opportunity to ride one more time on a combine.

Snow starts the new year

The first days of 2017 brought snow and slippery conditions as state and county road departments started early by getting ready for the storm. Officials in Cross and Jackson counties worked to keep roads and bridges open, while area wrecker services were busy with crashes and wrecks throughout the area.

White County tornadoes

As the winter weather moved out of the area, tornadoes in February damaged at least 40 homes in Higginson as an EF-1 tornado hit the town. An EF-2 tornado then hammered Kensett in White County.

Elizabeth Fiddler said her 83-year-old grandmother was at home when the storm hit and that the storms caused a car in the driveway to tip over on its side.

"It was shaking, walls rattling, everything moving, of course," Fiddler said. "It was just, she said it was total chaos."

Pocahontas flooding

Heavy rains brought historic flooding to Pocahontas and Randolph County as officials and residents slowly began the process of rebuilding their homes and their lives.

The flooding also caused over 150 homes in the Robil Addition to be evacuated as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers watched nearby levees.

County Judge David Jansen said in May that the evacuation order needed to be taken seriously.

"We have some that won't move. I hope that everybody takes this serious. Get out while you can," Jansen said.

Riverfront and Overlook parks in Pocahontas were closed due to the flooding, while a benefit concert was held to help people impacted by the flooding.

Mumps makes a comeback

State health officials said in September that an outbreak of mumps in the state was over, not before hammering schools in Northeast Arkansas.

The Arkansas Department of Health released numbers, saying there were nearly 3,000 cases of mumps from August 2016 to August 2017 with the number the second largest number in the country in nearly 30 years.

Locally, there were 14 cases at the Paragould School District as well as cases at Greene County Tech, Jonesboro Kindergarten Center, BRTC-Paragould and Pocahontas.

Basement shooting

One person was killed and six others were injured in May after a shooting at the Basement venue in downtown Jonesboro.

Donita Webb said she was getting ready to leave when she heard three shots. Then, she started running for the exit.

"Everybody was running for their lives, they didn't know if they were going to get hit or what was going to happen," Webb said. "A girl was laying at the bottom of the stairs, her friends or sibling were like, get off of her, get off of her and I saw her she was just balled up."

The owners of the Basement said in a statement in May that the incident was tragic.

"Like others in our community, we are deeply saddened by the tragedy that took place early Sunday morning. Please continue to pray for all of those whose lives have been affected and for the safety of those involved in the ongoing investigation," the owners said.

Weatherford remembered

Newport police and residents in the Jackson County town grieved in June when Lt. Patrick Weatherford was killed in the line of duty.

Weatherford had responded to a vehicle break-in when he chased the suspect on foot near Remmel Park. The suspect then turned and shot Weatherford, Arkansas State Police officials said in a news conference after the incident.

Weatherford, who graduated from the FBI Academy, was remembered at a memorial service as a person who was the epitome of a leader.

"If you want to pay tribute to Patrick Weatherford, follow his example," Robert Summers, the dean for applied science at ASU-Newport, said. "Serve unselfishly, serve bravely, always seek to improve yourself. No matter what you do, no matter what you accomplish, never take yourself too seriously."

Two teenagers - 18-year-old Tyler Calamese and 16-year-old Derrick Heard - were arrested in connection with the case. Calamese was arrested on suspicion of breaking or entering while Heard was arrested and charged with Weatherford's murder, officials have said.

Also, the criminal justice department at ASU-Newport was named in honor of Weatherford earlier this year.

Harrisburg Road overpass crash

A crash at the Harrisburg Road overpass along I-555 was deadly in late June, with the crash causing damage to the four columns supporting the bridge.

Originally, officials thought it would take several months to repair the overpass but the project was completed in a few weeks. Highway officials reopened two lanes of traffic as crews worked at the scene.

Exotic animals in Poinsett County

It was not an everyday sight but Arkansas Game and Fish Commission officers and Poinsett County deputies looked into the discovery of seven tigers, six lions and a leopard found in a Poinsett County barn in September.

Poinsett County deputies received an anonymous tip and found the animals, which were being temporarily housed there while waiting to be shipped to Germany.

Craig Keller told Region 8 News that he was helping a friend when the animals were found on his property. Keller said at the time he wanted to dispel rumors and speculation about the discovery.

"Everyone thought that they are down there smuggling black market tigers or whatever," Keller said. "It just got way out of hand."

Farmer rides on combine one last time

The sight of a Clay County farmer being helped into a combine to join his grandson went viral this year, with the farmer enjoying an opportunity to get into the field.

Quinn Brown, who passed away in October at age 94, grew up in the Success area and was born on the land where his farm stood.

His son, Mitch, said his father had to drop out of school at age 13 to begin farming the land. His father also taught him everything he knows about farming, Mitch Brown said.

"If I am not doing it right, he used to jump down my throat and say that ain't the way we are doing it," Mitch Brown said.

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