Area Impacted by Strong Storms
The impact of a string of violent storms is being felt in Clay County and throughout much of Arkansas. The latest batch of storms hit the area Monday, bringing with it high winds and periods of hard, heavy rainfall.
While few parts of the county were unaffected by the storm, the worst hit area in Clay County was McDougal, where three homes received significant damage, including the home of Billy Gilbee, which was pulled from its foundation and slammed end-over-end, leaving the structure a total loss. A neighboring home was crushed by a fallen tree and another home was shifted on its foundation as high-speed winds tore through the small community. Fortunately, no serious injuries were reported. Clay County emergency responders were joined in McDougal by members of the American Red Cross Monday afternoon, as residents were given food, shelter and support by volunteers, family members and friends in the storm's wake.
This storm resulted in one fatality in Ashdown, located in the southwestern corner of the state.
Monday's storm came after similar storms hit the area Thursday and Friday night. Thursday night's storm brought hail, lightning and gusts of wind, resulting in property damage in a few locations. The Hopewell Community Center, located on County Road 428 southwest of Rector, was heavily damaged when winds knocked down a large oak tree which had long been a part of the center's surroundings. The tree caught the rear corner of the building, completely tearing off the entire corner. Due to a lack of funds, the insurance for the site had been dropped just six months prior. Also on Thursday, the junior high football games for Rector and Piggott were affected, with Piggott forced to reschedule for Monday night and Rector's game being stopped late in the third quarter following a 20-minute delay.
More rain fell on Friday, but winds were not as strong and lightning was less active.
Most local damage from the storm was minor, at least in terms of personal property. In terms of agriculture, the full impact of these storms will only likely be known once harvesting gets underway, particularly for cotton, which is likely to be the crop most affected. According to Andy Vangilder, chair of the Clay County Cooperative Extension Agency, the winds and rain do the bulk of their damage in two ways, by knocking bolls free from plants and by water infiltrating cracked bolls to cause the cotton within to harden.
"Right now, it's a little too early to say how much this has hurt the cotton crops," Vangilder said. "We've lost whatever's fallen on the ground, but for the rest of it, we'll have to see when it's harvested."
Vangilder and many area growers are hoping for warmer temperatures in the coming days to help cotton bolls finish growing and reinvigorate any cracked, damp bolls suffering from "hard rock."
Vangilder noted solid yields are essential for this season's cotton crop, which has seen prices drop to the point where he feels decent yields will be required for producers to "break even."
Some cornfields were damaged, but Vangilder said much of the county's corn had been harvested before the storms hit. Also, much of the rice had been harvested prior to the storms, limiting the damage to that crop, as well.
The Clay County Road Department is at work making repairs to the county's extensive gravel roadways. Those traveling down these county roads are reminded to exercise caution when approaching areas with standing water and sections which have been washed away.