A line of strong thunderstorms damaged buildings and disrupted power service across northwestern Arkansas on Wednesday and was expected to continue to race across the South, bringing gusty winds and possible tornadoes, the National Weather Service said.
A tornado may have struck the Springdale area in northwest Arkansas about 4 a.m. Wednesday, according to Joe Sellers, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Tulsa, which oversees five counties in Arkansas.
“We are pretty certain that one occurred,” Mr. Sellers said in a phone interview. He added that a survey team was headed to Springdale to assess the damage and confirm the tornado.
Roads were closed and there were reports of downed trees and power lines, according to the Springdale Police Department. Footage from local news outlets showed roofs peeled off homes and businesses in the city.
The Springdale School District closed schools on Wednesday because of the severe weather and power outages. The district reported significant damage to George Elementary School, in Springdale.
“The gymnasium was destroyed and the kitchen and cafeteria were severely damaged,” the school district said on Facebook.
The Weather Service warned of gusty winds across the state on Wednesday as a cold front moved in.
“These storms will be capable of producing gusty winds in excess of 60 mph,” the Weather Service in Little Rock said said on Twitteradding that hail was also possible.
The strongest winds were expected across the eastern part of the state, where gusts could exceed 50 miles per hour.
Areas of Arkansas including Valley Springs, Western Grove, Gassville and Bull Shoals were under a severe thunderstorm warning on Wednesday morning.
A tornado watch that had been in effect early on Wednesday morning was canceled for several counties including Boone, Johnson and Yell.
The bad weather has already caused widespread power outages throughout the state. More than 5,000 customers were without power on Wednesday morning, according to PowerOutage.US, a website that aggregates data from utilities.
The storms came after a tornado in the New Orleans area killed at least one person last week and caused heavy damage and power outages.