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Tornado skirts Maumelle

The tornado actually made a path from the Entergy substation straight east down the major power transmission lines before hitting Tommy’s Meat Market and a few homes east of Arkansas Highgway 365. The downed powerlines resulted in the highway being closed until crews could clean up the mess and replace power poles and restring the project to get the dangeorus lines off the highway. (Paul Fempel Photo)
The tornado actually made a path from the Entergy substation straight east down the major power transmission lines before hitting Tommy’s Meat Market and a few homes east of Arkansas Highgway 365. The downed powerlines resulted in the highway being closed until crews could clean up the mess and replace power poles and restring the project to get the dangeorus lines off the highway. (Paul Fempel Photo)

For years Maumelle residents and even local officials have touted the fact that Maumelle has never had a tornado strike in the city during its brief history.

They joke about TV weather reports that there’s a twister over Maumelle but note that one may have flown by but never touched down inside the city.

That almost all ended last Thursday evening when what the National Weather Service called an EF 1 tornado touched down just on the outskirts of town.

Charles Dalton, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s North Little Rock office said the twister touched down 1.7 miles north northeast of Maumelle at 9:13 p.m. on May 30 and ran a two-tenths of a mile long path to a point 1.8 miles north northeast of Maumelle.

He said when the heavy system approached the city it bowed out and the circular spin of the system spun out at the leading edge following a path basically along the Entergy transmission power lines from the substation to east of the city.

The impact on Maumelle couldn’t have been placed any better if that were the intention because residents suffered —— some up to 37 hours without a drop of electricity despite the best efforts of local Entergy crews and those brought in from around the Mid-South to assist in the cleanup, erecting new poles and reconnecting a transmission line.

While all of Maumelle has its power utilities under the ground, the weak point in the system is that transmission grid, Ron Harris, Entergy district manager said.

When the tornado crossed Arkansas Highway 365 it tore down light poles and left the dangerous high voltage lines lying across the street.

It then hit Tommy’s Meat Market ripping the shingles and part of the roof with it.

But straight-line winds did enough damage with small trees and limbs down all over town but the most damage was the electrical outage that followed the tornadoes impact upon the city’s power substation just north of city limits.

The tornado damaged the roof at Tommy’s Meat Market but the businesses loss of product was more costly than the roof damage, Jerry Dutry said. Dutry bought the business about a year ago from Tommy Theis and while he said he’d been pleased with the Maumelle folks he met, the response to that tornado gave him a new found respect for the city and its support of each other.

Strangers just stopped by to see if they could help, Dutry said.

Homeowners around town trying to dig their way out of downed trees and limbs said they looked up and here came neighbors down the street they didn’t even know carrying chain saws and offering to help.

Mayor Mike Watson said the debris looked almost as bad as the remnants of last Christmas’ snow storm which left trees down everywhere.

He said residents needing the city to pick up and haul away the damaged trees should call public works to schedule a pickup.

Emergency crews responded to 911 calls around the city, checking on reports of limbs falling on roofs. While many roofs were damaged, no residents were hurt by the falling limbs or trees ending up on their roofs.

Mostly it was limbs and not roofs, Maumelle fire chief George Glenn said.

He cited one situation where the firefighters performed a miracle for one Maumelle resident. A man dependent upon a home-based Oxygen generator lost power and didn’t have a backup system so he was fighting for his breath, Glenn said.

Firefighters brought along an emergency generator which powered the Oxygen until the power returned.

“It may not seem like much, but to that man our firefighters were heroes, Glenn said.

Several Code Red weather alerts went out that night, Glenn said, the first a Tornado Warning at 8:56:39 seconds p.m., about 16 minutes before the actual funnel cloud touched down just north of town.

Glenn thanked everyone or the professional manner in which they responded to the alerts. He said they were automatically set up based upon preset parameters like the tornado warning issued for Maumelle.

But the other four alerts issued on Saturday, June 1 were issued because of Flash Flooding, he said.

Some low lying areas did flood but nothing like the last example in Rolling Oaks, the Gables and Windsor Apartments in 2011, he said.

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