April 10th, 2009 16:52 EST
Tornado Hits Mena, Arkansas; 3 Dead
Amidst a storm front that rolled across southwestern Arkansas Thursday evening, the small town of Mena located in Polk County near the Oklahoma border, was hit by a tornado that claimed three lives.
State officials announced that six counties were struck by the twisters, including reports from eyewitnesses saying that tornados were sighted near DeQueen, Hot Springs, and Texarkana.
According to Renee Preslar, a spokeswoman for the state`s emergency services, over thirty people were injured as a result of the cyclone that extensively damaged the Polk County Courthouse in Mena when it touched down in the early hours Friday. At least ten businesses were damaged from the tornado that swept across the center of the city, including city hall and two churches.
As Polk County emergency coordinator James Reeves said early Friday morning: "One manufacturing plant is gone. It took a direct hit. It`s no longer there."
In all his years living in Mena, Reeves said he never saw anything like this "in my life time. The last tornado we had to hit the city of Mena was in November 1993. This time we had significant structures (impacted)."
Of the three victims, two men and one woman were found dead in the recovery efforts after the storm. One man was found under the rubble of a leveled home, the other in a devastated Masonic lodge, and the only woman who died was discovered in her own front yard.
Gov. Mike Beebe issued a state of emergency for the region and commissioned National Guard troops to maintain order in the tornado-ravaged center of town.
The Arkansas National Guard declared a curfew and cordoned off certain areas for state volunteers and technicians to clean up downed power lines, ruptured gas lines, building debris, and fallen tree limbs.
An Arkansas state trooper, caught in the middle of Mena when the twister struck, had to call in for help when his squad car State spokespeople announced that the storm pranged areas in Oklahoma and Texas and severe thunderstorms wiped a trail through parts as far north as southern Missouri.
The National Weather Service originally covered the news and reported that 3-inch size hail was seen falling just south of Mena before the tornado reached the town.
The storm`s awful power even tore sections off an oil rig in Miller County, in the corner of the state near the Texas and Louisiana borders, and ripped through chicken coops in Howard County.
Well after the skies cleared over the town, emergency workers conducted a more thorough search and rescue operation and combed through the aftermath left of the town after the last of the storms passed. Authorities confirmed that they didn`t find any more dead or injured.
State representatives stated that well over thirty people were injured in the storm.
Polk County Sheriff Mike Oglesby spoke to sources from The Associated Press before mid-day today about the state`s ongoing recovery dragnet. According to Oglesby, searchers couldn`t find anyone else, living or dead, in the devastation and no one has called in any missing person`s reports.
The National Guard will remain on duty until some semblance of order is restored in the town. State-mandated roadblocks will remain in effect until futher notice.