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WEATHER GRIEVING: How an EF 3 tornado destroyed entire communities in parts of Arkansas

By Kylie Daniel / April 13, 2023 / ATMSC 2022


A house in the Walnut Valley neighborhood is left in shambles as a result of the EF 3 tornado that struck part of Arkansas on March 31, 2023 in Pulaski County, Little Rock, Ar. (ATMSC 2022/Kylie Daniel)

LITTLE ROCK, Ar. (ATMSC 2022) – Parts of central and northeast Arkansas are destroyed after a havoc EF 3 tornado rips through the state on March 31, 2023.

Forecasters predicted severe weather for this area earlier in the week, declaring possible threats of hail, strong winds and even tornadoes. Residents were advised to have a safety action plan and shelter ready in case threats became realities.

Over 28 million people were under a Tornado watch as of 2:49 p.m. on Friday afternoon, according to the National Weather Service via Twitter. 

"A severe weather outbreak appears increasingly likely this afternoon/evening across a large portion of the Mississippi Valley. At least a few long-track, strong to potentially violent tornadoes are probable. Swaths of intense damaging wind and very large hail are also expected." National Storm Prediction Center via Twitter.

Multiple severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings were issued throughout Arkansas. Little Rock, North Little Rock and Sherwood residents were alerted at 2:04 p.m. that the radar detected a tornado and to take shelter immediately. Little did they know, though, the tornado was soon to touch down.

“It is just…incomprehensible.”

“There was a lady up on Cantrell Rd. at a dentist’s office. She was standing outside to film it and was about to get sucked up in the tornado had her husband not held onto her,” Little Rock resident Phyllis Daniel says. 

Phyllis has been a resident of Little Rock and Pulaski County for over 50 years and has never seen a tornado this destructive. If the storm had not shifted east, it would have gone right over her community. However, her previous house in the Walnut Valley neighborhood was in the tornado’s direct path.

“There was a tornado in 1999 but I don’t remember it destroying neighborhoods to the degree this one did. And of course, this one was meaningful because I had lived in the neighborhood. My old house, the pool my daughter grew up going to…just destroyed. The devastation in Walnut Valley is just massive.”

Despite the widespread damage, Pulaski County recorded only one death—which was unrelated—after the tornado.

“We had only one fatality, and it was an older man who had a heart attack…possibly because it was in the afternoon when people were at work and were aware of what was happening. Pretty miraculous, isn’t it?”


The Storm Prediction Center had also issued a level 5 out of 5 “high risk” for severe weather, which is the highest severe weather is ranked.

The last time a Level 5 high risk was issued was on March 25, 2021, when powerful storms and tornadoes killed at least six people and ripped apart communities in the Southeast, according to CBS News.

The National Weather Service called the storm "catastrophic."

More than 54,000 people were without power across the county, according to Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott, Jr. called the tornado "devastating" and said he asked for National Guard assistance. Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders declared a state of emergency, saying the state will "spare no resource" in responding and recovering from the storm.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson said Friday he has activated the Missouri State Emergency Operations Plan as parts of the state began getting hit by the storm.

"We want to ensure all necessary state resources are available if extreme disruptions and damage were to affect our communities," he said.


Since the storm, local residents, students, neighbors and family members work together to make Little Rock “strong” again.

Being only a week-out from Easter festivities, multiple churches have offered up their buildings as relief centers. One church in particular has gathered a team of volunteers to help serve the community before Easter.

“The Church at Rock Creek is actively serving those who have been impacted by the recent storms in Central Arkansas…A group will be gathering to serve a few locations hit with storm damage. We will assist in cleaning trees, limbs, and debris from yards,” their website states.

Easter services at Rock Creek remained scheduled for their original times on April 9. Next Generation Ministries Pastor, Jason Curry, was enlightened by the help they had received the previous day as he closes out the sermon.

“It was truly inspiring. Someone was there. Someone had cared.”

Additional Resources

If you or a loved one has been affected by the storms, there are
many resources to provide help and relief during these
devastating times.

Pleasant Valley Church of Christ, 10900 N Rodney Parham Rd

Calvary Baptist Church, 5700 Cantrell Road, 72207
North Little Rock Community Center, 2700 Willow Street, 72114

Additionally, The Little Rock Zoo and the Museum of Discovery both announced on Thursday they are inviting families impacted by the tornado to spend time gathering and reconnecting in safe locations for free.

On April 8-9, Zoo officials say parties of four will receive free admission by simply stating at the Zoo’s front gate that they have been impacted.

The Museum of Discovery will hold two separate free admission weekends, one for victims and one to for first responders, according to officials.


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