Storms downed trees and power lines in Redfield about 7:55 p.m. Tuesday, about 35 minutes after the National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for Jefferson County.
The alert was originally directed at the White Hall area, but the storm rapidly spun northward toward Jefferson and Redfield. About 7:57 p.m., a law enforcement officer advised a tornado was on the ground and some damage had occurred at White Bluff, where an Entergy coal-powered, electric-generating plant is located.
The Commercial received information on its Facebook page that portions of Redfield had experienced power outages. Entergy’s website reported about 200 Redfield customers lost electricity. Several residents also told of the city having been pelted by hail.
A second tornado warning for the county was issued at 8:10 p.m. after rotation was detected in storm clouds near Kedron in Cleveland County. That warning, which was to have expired at 9 p.m., indicated the storm was headed for Pine Bluff, first to the Watson Chapel community and then onward to Lake Saracen. The storm path later slid eastward to threaten the city’s Grider Field Airport along with the Altheimer and Wabbaseka areas. The warning was extended to 9:15 p.m. and broadened to include Arkansas County.
Warning sirens were sounded within Pine Bluff several times and scattered electrical outages occurred. Over 1,200 Entergy customers here were left without power, primarily within an area stretching from West 27th Avenue to West 39th between South Main and Fir streets. Entergy’s Web site indicated electricity might not be restored before 8 a.m. Wednesday.
There were additional outages south of the city.
In Drew County, there were reports of storm damage in Monticello.
The National Weather Service was predicting a moderate risk of tornadoes in Jefferson County and the remainder of southeast Arkansas into early Wednesday morning. Near-record warmth on Tuesday clashed with an approaching cold front, leaving conditions unstable and leading to NWS watches and warnings. A tornado watch had been posted until 1 a.m. for Jefferson, Arkansas, Bradley, Cleveland, Desha, Drew, Grant and Lincoln counties.
A line of storms began forming in northwest Arkansas and moving east-southeast earlier Tuesday. The primary threat figured to be damaging, straight-line winds of up to 60 miles an hour and heavy rains projected to produce some flash flooding. The greatest possibility of tornadoes existed primarily in advance of the actual line of storms.
The brunt of the storms had been anticipated to strike here between 8 and 9 p.m. and possibly continue through about midnight, but the storms had dissipated by about 9:30 p.m.
Winds were expected to be out of the south at 25 to 30 miles an hour during the evening and then decrease to 20 to 25 mph after midnight with gusts of up to 40 mph. The overnight low was estimated to be in the 40s.
High temperatures in the region Wednesday are expected to be in the mid 50s, and windy conditions will likely continue. West winds of 20 to 25 mph are projected with gusts of up to 30 mph. Wednesday night’s low temperatures are forecast to dip into the 20s.
It’s not unusual for tornadoes to occur within the region during January and February. On Jan. 22, 2012, a series of twisters from the same storm system spanned Dallas, Cleveland, Jefferson and Arkansas counties. The Fordyce Country Club and a 160-year-old church near Kingsland were destroyed, and homes and other structures received moderate to heavy damage in the Rison, Stuttgart and Sweden areas.
More than 40 perople were injured and numerous homes and businesses were demolished in a Feb. 24, 2007, tornado at Dumas.
The state’s deadliest tornado of the 20th Century smacked Warren on Jan. 3, 1949, leaving 55 people dead and resulting in 435 injuries.
Arkansas saw a single-day record 56 tornadoes on Jan. 21, 1999. Locally, the Pine Bluff Arsenal sustained the most damage. Also struck were Poyen, Tucker, White Hall and rural areas near Bunn, Pastoria and Princeton. The White Hall twister cut a 16-mile path. There were no injuries in southeast Arkansas.