Storms slam county with one-two punch

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Strong storms packing high winds and heavy rains swept through portions of the county late last week toppling trees, snapping power poles and sending tree limbs flying.

A storm moved through Eureka Springs Thursday evening and another packed a punch as it moved from Berryville to Green Forest Friday afternoon.

Damage from Friday's storm included downed trees, snapped limbs and scattered power outages. Berryville Mayor Tim McKinney, who works for Entergy, said he was out initiating repairs nearly nine hours Friday night and again early Saturday morning restoring electrical service.

"We had circuits out in Berryville and Green Forest," he said. "We had about 900 customers in Berryville out for 10 or 15 minutes. In Green Forest, Tyson's was out, along with maybe a hundred others for a short period. The rest of the time, we were taking care of individual customers."

One fire was attributed to the storm. Green Forest firefighters said they raced to a South Arch Avenue location after a transformer blew and ignited a tree.

In Eureka Springs Thursday evening, some roadways were closed and electric service interrupted after trees fell and power poles snapped, including several at the high school.

Jack Gentry and his wife Penny, who live on Hines Street near the school, were home at the time. He remembered it was "raining cats and dogs" when a huge tree toppled alongside their house about 5:30 p.m.

"I was sitting in the living room and she was standing by the kitchen window," he recalled. "She said 'oh my' as she saw it coming down."

Gentry said the tree barely missed the house, crushed his shed instead and knocked down live power lines. Both he and Penny escaped injury. "I made the first call to the fire department to ask them to call the electric company," he said.

"We walked downtown with a bag of clothes, like a couple of hobos. The Basin Park Hotel offered us a room."

With their vehicles trapped at the house behind the fallen tree, Gentry said friends provided transportation to work the next morning.

Gentry said he and Penny will be staying someplace else until electrical service is restored to the house, which may need rewiring because of the force of the tree's impact on power lines.

At Basin Park, in downtown Eureka, limbs from a large sycamore snapped off, damaging park benches, a fountain, and a Harley Davidson motorcycle parked across the street.

Snapped and fallen trees littered the areas behind the courthouse, the Auditorium, Planer Hill, Singleton Street, near the Palace Bathhouse and at other locations.

The storms also brought much needed rain. One rain gauge out of the storm's direct path in Eureka Springs recorded three-quarters of an inch of precipitation during the 20-minute downpour.

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