March 8, 2017 Edition

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Early morning winds on Tuesday tore off large sections of the exterior roof at the Walnut Ridge Country Club, compromised electrical power and caused water damage from heavy rain.
TD Photo ~ John Bland

Two storm systems hit
county less than a week

John Bland

Two separate storm systems, occurring in less than a week, caused damage to trees, power lines and a few structures in Lawrence County.

The first system came early March 1 and downed trees and power lines throughout the county. The second system came early Tuesday, six days later, with less widespread damage, but pinpointed damage to the Williams Baptist College, Walnut Ridge Airport Industrial Park and in the Black Rock and Smithville areas.

"It could have been much worse in both instances," said County Judge John Thomison. "There were no injuries and that's a blessing," he added.

Airport Industrial Park

Walnut Ridge Mayor Charles Snapp reported damage in the Airport Industrial Park occurred from both storm systems. "Winds hit that same path" and both times caused damage to a warehouse door at LACO Manufacturing.

Other buildings with damage to garage or warehouse-style doors included West Machine Inc./Iron Mountain Metal Works, American Agviation and the former Krepps building that has been bought and is being rebuilt by Clark General Contractors. Debris was also strewn on the airport's runways.

The Walnut Ridge Country Club building, which is owned by the Airport Commission, sustained heavy roof damage, compromised electrical power and water damage due to the heavy rain.

A major fund-raising event, Tips for Tots, is scheduled for Saturday night at the Country Club. Jennifer Gramling of the Lawrence County Circle of Friends for Children's Hospital said the event will go on as planned, despite the damage.

"We're going to pull together and get it (the clubhouse) cleaned up," she said.

Damage at WBC

For the second time in less than a week, a severe thunderstorm left damage in its wake at Williams Baptist College. Two homes in the college's faculty neighborhood were damaged by fallen trees, and the softball and baseball fields also sustained damage when the storm rolled through in the early morning hours Tuesday.

A 10 X 20 foot scoreboard at the WBC Softball Field was left in twisted pieces over 100 yards away, and the outfield fence at the softball field was also damaged. At Shell Baseball Field, two large sections of wooden fence were flattened in the storm.

In WBC's Faculty Cove, a large tree was uprooted and fell on the roof of one home. Damage to the roof was substantial, but the occupants will be able to remain in the home while repairs are made. Another home suffered minor damage when a limb fell on it.

"The storm left us with some structural damage, but we are blessed that no one was hurt and it hasn't disrupted our schedule today (Tuesday) at Williams. We are thankful for our maintenance and campus safety personnel who responded quickly to secure our facilities and keep everyone safe," said Dr. Tom Jones, WBC's president.

The March 1 storm also hit the Williams campus, knocking down trees including one that damaged three vehicles near Southerland Hall. The storm hit around 3:30 March 1 with winds reportedly clocked at 78 miles per hour at Walnut Ridge Regional Airport.

Williams received a big assist from two key entities in cleaning up the March 1 storm debris. The City of Walnut Ridge and a Disaster Relief unit from the Arkansas Baptist State Convention assisted WBC's maintenance crew to make roadways and lawns safe around the campus by clearing away fallen trees and limbs.

Black Rock, Smithville areas

Judge Thomison said damage also occurred Tuesday in the Black Rock and Smithville areas.

Tree and power lines were downed on County Road 210/Cemetery Road near Black Rock with water reported over the road and a large tree down on Hwy. 361 and County Road 216 south of Black Rock.

Thomison reported that Dan Sloan's chicken houses in the Black Rock area sustained significant roof damage, while Jerry Foley lost a barn at Smithville on Tuesday morning.

"I want to commend the road crew. They worked hard" to clear trees and power lines, Thomison said.

March 1 storm

The March 1 storm downed trees and power lines throughout the county. In Portia, a portable carport from the Lawrence County Cooperative School landed on the roof of the nearby home of Eddie and Julie Jones.

Craighead Electric Cooperative of Jonesboro reported that approximately 2,500 members lost electric service from the early morning thunderstorm. Approximately 25 power poles were damaged due to the storm with the greatest number of outages in northwest Lawrence County, northeast Greene County, eastern Craighead County and southern Poinsett County.

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