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01/23/2012 12:01 am ET | Updated Mar 24, 2012

Arkansas Tornadoes 2012: Storms Leave Thousands Without Power

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By Suzi Parker

LITTLE ROCK, Ar, Jan 22 (Reuters) - Twisters downed trees and powerlines in Arkansas leaving thousands without power late Sunday, as forecasters warned that tornadoes and heavy storms could mete out damage to several southeast states into Monday.

A tornado tore into an area outside of Fordyce, some 70 miles south of state capital Little Rock at around 8:00 p.m. local time, damaging houses and felling trees and power lines as it moved, according to Accuweather.com.

An unnamed official at Dallas County sheriff's department told Reuters that emergency responders rescued a woman resident after she become trapped in her home. No injuries were reported.

The potential for severe storms overnight and into Monday stretched from the Gulf of Mexico in Mississippi to southern Indiana and Ohio, according to AccuWeather.com.

"A few destructive, long-track tornadoes are quite possible," AccuWeather.com meteorologist Bill Deger said, warning that the severe storms created "an especially dangerous situation given the veil of night."

Accuweather carried reports of five other twisters touching the ground in Arkansas, which was pelted by soft-ball sized hailstones and buffeted by winds gusting up to 70 miles per hour.

Funnel clouds were spotted within 20 miles of state capital Little Rock, according to a national weather service alert, which also issued a flood advisory for the city.

Roughly 13,400 homes were without power across Arkansas as the storms intensified, according to utility provider Entergy Arkansas, Inc.

Roughly one third of Arkansas tornadoes occur at night and are difficult to see in the darkness, the national weather service said, recommending residents in the state to take cover as a precaution.

VERY HAZARDOUS CONDITIONS

In Alabama, residents were bracing for storms that could hit after dark on Sunday or overnight with a strong cold front from the west combining with warm moist air flowing up from the Gulf of Mexico, according to the National Weather Service.

The weather service said thunderstorms could bring wind gusts up to 80 mph, tornadoes or golf ball-sized hail in Mississippi, although no damage or injuries were reported late on Sunday.

Farther west, the weather service warned of a high fire danger in Texas with wind gusts of up to 50 mph.

A second stormfront was expected to hit California late Sunday night, bringing significant snowfall to the mountain regions, according to the National Weather Service, before rolling into the southern United States later in the week.

Parts of central and southern California were under a winter weather warning as a storm system was expected to sweep into the area late Sunday into Monday morning, with the weather service predicting 6 to 12 inches of snow.

The Sierras and the Rockies may accumulate as much as 3 feet of snow, the weather service said, and driving in mountain passes will be "very hazardous" due to low visibility, gusting winds and heavy snowfall.

The weather service also warned of high winds along southern California's desert roads that would pose a particular danger to trucks and motor homes.

In Reno, Nevada, meanwhile, snowfall provided welcome relief to firefighters who were monitoring remaining hotspots from a blaze that raged near the outskirts of the city beginning Thursday, destroying 30 houses and prompting thousands of people to flee their homes.

In the upper Midwest, freezing drizzle was expected to make roads and sidewalks slippery from southeastern Minnesota into Wisconsin, changing to snow later Sunday, the weather service said. Up to 4 inches of snow was expected farther north in southeast North Dakota and west central Minnesota.

In the northeast United States, a fast-moving storm from central Pennsylvania eastward dropped up to a foot of snow in parts of Rhode Island and Massachusetts on Saturday. (Additional reporting By David Bailey; Mary Slosson and Kelli Dugan; Writing by Mary Slosson; Editing by Tim Gaynor)

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Arkansas Storms 2012