Severe Weather Pounds Region
Following what can only be described as a mild winter, the first week of spring has been anything but mild--as much of the country has been pounded by severe weather. Heavy rains, strong winds, hail and a handful of tornadoes have wreaked havoc on much of the nation since late last week, and more is in the forecast for the days to come.
Early Saturday morning a weak tornado resulted in thousands of dollars in damage in Marmaduke, but luckily no injuries were reported. Meanwhile, strong winds also damaged several homes and businesses along the south edge of Piggott.
Monday afternoon the National Weather Service verified the damage in Marmaduke was from an EF0 tornado, based on a survey of the city and surrounding area. Their initial report indicated the twister was likely only on the ground for about a minute, covering an area about 120 yards wide. According to the NWS experts, top winds reached about 80 miles per hour.
Authorities reported heavy damage to one of the convenience stores in town, part of a wooden storage shed was blown across Highway 49 south of the city, nearly two dozen homes suffered roof damage and power lines, trees and limbs were downed.
The south edge of Piggott was also heavily impacted, as homes and businesses suffered damage and possessions were blown-about the neighborhoods. The destruction included a large warehouse at Legacy Equipment, which was flattened by the winds, while half the roof was ripped from a shop building on Madison Avenue just west of the railroad tracks. Roofs on dozens of homes, businesses, shop buildings and garages were affected, along with several unoccupied buildings along South Browning.
Part of an awning was blown across South Taylor and an aged storage building on East Bruce Street was also destroyed by the high winds, as were several trees. Damage was also reported at the Irby Funeral Home facility at the corner of Terminal Road and West Pfeiffer, along with the city-owned building nearby.
Mayor Jim Poole noted some of the new construction on the Piggott Community Center roof project was also damaged, although the repairs were completed Monday. He also reported the old Chamber of Commerce Santa Claus house was destroyed and the new one heavily damaged, by the high winds. Both were being stored in the fenced-in area behind the city-owned building adjacent to the community center.
As for power outages in Piggott, Utilities Director Brian Haley reported a very brief outage likely associated with a direct lightning strike. Otherwise, the high winds did little to affect local service, something he attributes to the aggressive tree trimming program.
"After the ice storm were became more aggressive about trimming trees that affect our power lines, and our customers have cooperated," he noted. "Thanks to the hard work our guys have put in we are in good shape."
The lightning strike was also the likely cause for a short interruption of cell phone service to many local customers.
Another wave of storms rolled through the area on Monday, dropping additional rainfall on the already-soaked region, and pelting the Piggott area with pea-sized hail. Other parts of the region also suffered from flooding in low-lying areas, and golf ball sized hail fell in some locations in eastern Craighead and western Mississippi counties.