LITTLE ROCK (AP) — One person was killed after tornadoes cut a path through Arkansas, ripping off rooftops and downing power lines along the way, authorities said Thursday.
Cleburne County Sheriff Marty Moss said Ward Baldridge, 79, was badly injured when the twister hit his family's wood-frame, single-story home in the Pearson community about 9 p.m. Wednesday. Moss said Baldridge was taken to Baptist Medical Center at Heber Springs, where he later died.
According to the sheriff, Baldridge's 75-year-old wife, Ivajean Baldridge, and his 23-year-old grandson, Blake Baldridge, suffered serious injuries — including possible broken bones as well as internal injuries — and were also taken to the hospital at Heber Springs, about 10 miles east of Pearson. Moss said they were later transferred to a Little Rock hospital.
The sheriff said a fourth person was also injured in Wednesday night's storms — a man who was driving his pickup truck on Arkansas 107 when it was blown off the road by winds. Moss said the man, whose name the sheriff did not know, suffered a shoulder injury and was hospitalized at Heber Springs.
The storms, which forecasters had been warning about since the weekend, missed much of the state's populated areas.
About 1,600 customers remained without power Thursday morning, with Entergy Arkansas reporting on its Web site nearly 1,500 outages from southwestern to northeastern Arkansas. First Electric Cooperative reported 83 outages, most of those in Saline County just southwest of Little Rock.
Lt. Scott Courtney of the Saline County Sheriff's Office said a dozen homes were damaged near Benton, but no injuries were reported.
In southwest Arkansas, a tornado did minor damage to one building and snapped trees near Ozan in Hempstead County. Trees and power lines also were down along a path from near Texarkana in far southwestern Arkansas to near Batesville in the northeast, as high winds ravaged the countryside.
Until this week, the nation had one of the slowest starts to a tornado season. Until a twister Monday at Hammon, Okla., there had been only 42 reports of tornadoes since the start of the year — including just one in February. The nation typically will see 70-100 tornadoes by early March.
Forecasters said moisture from the Gulf of Mexico, a wetter-than-usual winter and a jet stream racing over Tornado Alley could contribute to a rapid uptick in violent storms.