PB, SE Arkansas at risk for tornadoes

Jefferson County and the remainder of the southeastern quadrant of the state is at risk for tornadoes tonight, according to senior forecaster Brian Smith of the National Weather Service’s North Little Rock office.

Smith said the chance of precipitation in the form of scattered showers and thunderstorms will be at 40 percent this morning and increase to 80 percent by late afternoon. By early evening, there will be a 90 percent chance, with some thunderstorms possibly reaching severe levels before midnight.

“Damaging winds and hail are the primary concerns for the late storms,” Smith said, “although isolated tornadoes are certainly possible. The area can expect 2 to 3 inches of rain with some locations receiving even more.”

The rain is expected to continue overnight into the early hours of Thursday, Smith added.

“Probability will eventually reach 100 percent,” he said.

Heavy rains for even a brief time can lead to localized street flooding in low areas of the region. Jefferson County Office of Emergency Management Coordinator Karen Quarles recommends that motorists avoid driving through flooded areas. Quarles said residents should listen to television or radio updates on severe weather potentials and be prepared to take appropriate actions.

“While there’s time before the expected storms, make sure you’ve got working flashlights and an adequate supply of batteries in case we have a power outage,” she said. “It’s wise to have a battery-backup radio to listen to as well.”

Quarles said people shouldn’t rely on outdoor tornado sirens for their lone source of warnings.

“Remember that the outdoor sirens are meant to deliver warnings outdoors,” she said. “You can often hear them inside a residence, business or other structure, but not always.”

Tornadoes have occurred in every month within Arkansas, but the state’s peak period of tornado activity is April and May.