Many people in central Arkansas had a beautiful Tuesday afternoon. But those who live in North Little Rock saw an amazing display of nature’s power.
“It was, like, real crazy,” Joe Taylor said. “I ain’t never seen nothing like that in my life!”
Taylor could enjoy talking about the storm after it passed by. He said he had just woken up from a nap when the wind and hail arrived.
“I tried to open up the door, and when I opened up the door, the wind was, like, pushing the door. I had to push the door like that,” he said, putting his weight behind his hands, “and I’m talking about hail just coming all in the house.
“And then I seen, like--you know what I’m saying—people, like going crazy, coming outside, talking about, ‘what happened? What’s going on? What’s going on, was it a tornado?’”
There was no tornado Tuesday, but winds that gusted as fast at 60 miles per hour brought steady hail and rain, causing flooding in some areas and knocking several trees over. Many trees, including one near the intersection of 18th and Allen streets, brought power lines down with them, leaving upwards of 5,000 North Little Rock Electric customers without power.
One large customer that lost power was McCain Mall. North Little Rock firefighters and police officers helped mall security evacuate the entire mall Tuesday afternoon.
Deputy Fire Marshal Dustin Free said a small fire was seen in the kitchen of the mall’s Chick-fil-A. He said damage was minimal, but firefighters cleared the area as a precaution.
“While they were in the process of doing that, during the storm, they lost power to a portion of the mall,” Free stated. “So, the power to the portion of the mall, they decided, instead of just evacuating the area, to evacuate the entire building.”
Free said power outages and damage around the city made it more difficult than usual for crews to arrive, but he said damage to the restaurant was less than it may have appeared to people who saw the fire.
“Evacuation actually went really well,” he added. “The mall security and the mall staff worked hand in hand with us, letting all the store employees know to get everybody out of the building.”
Firefighters, mall security, and police officers lingered around the building as a steady stream of drivers passed by to ask if the mall would open. It remained closed throughout the evening, because Free said firefighters could not inspect it while the power remained out. “Once the power comes back on and we do a safety walkthrough of the building—just to make sure that there’s not any damage to the building—then the building will be opened back up,” he stated, “and the patrons will be able to come back in and continue shopping.”
Shoppers were also turned away from the Walmart on E. McCain Blvd. It lost power, as well, when a pair of large trees fell across Richards Road. One crushed a street lamp as it fell, and both took power lines down with them. Those trees caused a large power outage, forcing many nearby businesses to close.
Taylor chose to spend the evening sitting on a bench of one of the tables outside the Rally’s restaurant he works at. Without power, he couldn’t serve any food, but he said a handful of people tried to use the outage to score a free meal.
“One of the customers,” Taylor mentioned, “came up here and said, ‘did y’all already throw the stuff away?’ I was like, yeah. One of the customers said, ‘well, just get it out of the trash can. I’ll just wrap it up and take it home.’ I said, ‘no, I can’t do that. I can’t do that. I can’t do it!’”
North Little Rock Electric posted to its social media accounts that crews had a harder time repairing the damage than they anticipated Tuesday evening. The utility expected that many customers would not have their service restored until Wednesday.
Click here to see the current outage map from North Little Rock Electric.