Tornado confirmed in Monticello; Redfield, White Bluff twisters discounted

A survey team with the National Weather Service confirmed Wednesday afternoon that a weak tornado touched down briefly in Monticello Tuesday night causing some damage and one injury that sent a person to the hospital after they were shocked by lightning.

The twister, classified as an EF-0 with winds between 65 and 85 mph by the weather service, touched down 3.7 miles east northeast of Monticello at 8:51 p.m. and ended 7.3 miles east northeast of Monticello at 8:56 p.m.

The most significant damage occurred at the University of Arkansas at Monticello with the school releasing an official statement Wednesday morning.

“Winds blew a horse barn adjacent to the rodeo arena at the University of Arkansas at Monticello off its foundation,” the statement said. “The barn was blown across the rodeo parking area and damaged three livestock trailers.”

Rusty Jones, UAM rodeo coach, said that the barn housed 11 horses owned by students who are members of the UAM rodeo team but none of the horses were injured.

UAM Chancellor Jack Lassiter also released a statement.

“We are fortunate that no one was injured during last night’s storm,” Lassiter said. “While we regret the loss of property, we are gratified that everyone, including our rodeo livestock, came through the incident unscathed. I commend our Department of Public Safety as well as the Monticello Fire Department and the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management for their rapid response.”

Other damage at UAM reported by the school includes the snapping of a power line that ran across the rodeo parking area; three of four roll-up doors at the UAM indoor practice facility were blown off their tracks but remained closed.

Monticello Mayor Allen Maxwell was at a basketball game when the storm hit and said the game was briefly postponed during the storm.

“They had us get out of the gymnasium and go sit in the hallway,” Maxwell said. “When it was all clear we went back in and they finished the game.”

Maxwell said that he drove around Monticello after the storm and was surprised to see that there wasn’t more damage to the city.

The weather service survey team reported that a tree knocked down several power lines in town and broke a utility pole; several houses sustained shingle damage; part of the roof of a mobile home was blown off; a carport was blown down and another one was blown into a tree line; and several outbuildings were damaged.

No tornadoes in Jefferson County

Information that Redfield and White Bluff were struck by tornadoes Tuesday night was inaccurate, according to several officials.

Redfield Police Chief Steve McFatridge said Wednesday that straight-line winds of up to 60 miles an hour snapped some power lines and downed some tree limbs.

“But the city was OK,” he said. “It was worse just north and south of the city.”

McFatridge said he was patrolling during the peak of the storms.

“It lasted about an hour, on-and-off,” he said. “The winds were pretty strong, but there were no tornadoes and I’ve seen much worse storms.”

Melinda Elliott, operations manager for MECA (Metropolitan Emergency Communications Association), said there had had been no tornado at White Bluff, as was reported.

“There was some strong straight-line winds while some rotation was occurring in some clouds,” she said. “But a tornado did not develop.”

Elliott said she and three additional supervisors supported a regular staff of five workers during the storms.

“We were slammed with much more radio traffic and many more telephone calls than normal,” she said. “I think we were lucky to have no more than tree damage and power outages.”

Jefferson County Office of Emergency Management Coordinator Karen Quarles agreed.

“We were fortunate that we didn’t have any structural damages or injuries,” Quarles said. “I think we came close to having some tornadoes.”

Agricultural losses

The Cooperative Extension Service at the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture reported damage to farms around the state Tuesday from the storms.

“We had one area that a farm shop and a camper were torn up all in a line with two center pivots that were flipped upside down,” said Andy Vangilder, Clay County extension staff chair. “The worry is whether the farmer can get those two center pivots replaced in time for crop season.” Vangilder said it wasn’t clear whether the damage was from straight-line winds or a small funnel.

In Desha County, Extension Staff Chair Wes Kirkpatrick said high winds also caused damage there.

“We had a few trees blown down, some shingles blown off of roofs, and some light weight out-buildings or sheds blown away,” Kirkpatrick said.

“One small area got hit pretty hard, particularly the feed store in the Drasco community, with barn damage, damage to chicken houses and fences and windows blown out of a house,”said Cleburne County Extension Staff Chair Michelle Mobley.

Correspondent Patty Wooten and Commercial staff reporter Rick Joslin contributed to this article.