High winds produced by a line of severe thunderstorms that roared through Pine Bluff and Jefferson County around 1 a.m. Friday morning left behind numerous downed trees and power outages as well as some structural damage.
“The winds that went through Jefferson County were likely in the 60 mph to 70 mph range,” National Weather Service meteorologist Julie Lesko said Friday. “The same system went through Camden earlier in the night with winds clocked at 85 mph, causing serious damage at Camden Fairview High School and downing numerous trees in the area.”
Renee Greenlee with Pine Bluff Truck and Trailer Inc., located at the intersection of U.S. Highway 79 and Island Harbor Road, said the winds caused extensive damage to that business.
“The winds came up through the back of our garage where 18-wheelers are repaired,” Greenlee said. “It blew out 11 of our roll-up garage doors, blowing in the ones on the back side and blowing out the ones on the front.”
Greenlee said she and her husband were notified shortly after 1 a.m. that there was a problem at the business.
“We have an alarm on the doors and motion sensors inside the garage,” Greenlee said. “They were all going off. We live down near Rison and my husband and son had to get out and move three trees out of the road on the drive in.”
Terri Pennington was shopping in the Walmart Supercenter on South Olive Street when the storm knocked the power out.
“When the power went out they were able to keep checking out people at the registers for about 15 minutes before they went down,” Pennington said. “I got checked out and one person behind me did as well before the registers shut down. Nobody was allowed to leave the store until the worst of it had passed.”
Bob Green lives on Village Drive in the Country Village neighborhood just south of Pine Bluff. He reported several trees down on his home.
“The trees that fell were around 100 feet tall,” Green said Friday. “It looks like it was straight-line winds looking at the way the trees fell. One of them came down through the roof and into the walk-in closet. Insulation is on everything that was in there. But the good thing is nobody was hurt.”
Green said he was informed that it would cost around $3,500 to remove the trees.
“That’s just for the trees,” Green said. “It doesn’t count the damage to the house.”
Mike Falls lives on Country Lane in the Country Estates neighborhood.
“I woke up about 12:30 last night when I heard something hit the house,” Falls said. “We found a limb down on the front of the house and all of the plywood was knocked off my boat-shed roof. It was a pretty good wind. We could hear it coming.”
Sally Graham with Entergy Arkansas said Friday that peak outages in Pine Bluff occurred at 2:30 a.m. Friday morning with 9,009 customers in the dark.
“Peak outages statewide was also at 2:30 a.m. when there were 51,000 customers without power,” Graham said. “That number is down to just under 16,000 as of 4 p.m. this afternoon.”
Lesko said south Arkansas was the victim of a classic spring weather setup.
“We had warm, moist air coming up from the Gulf of Mexico that met up with a low-level jet stream aloft and an upper-level low pressure system,” Lesko said. “Sunshine in south Arkansas during the afternoon Thursday allowed temperatures to climb into the mid-80s, which primed the atmosphere for the storms that moved through.”
Lesko said the storms occurred later in the day than previously forecast.
“The cold front that moved in from the north ended up being slower than originally thought,” Lesko said.