Parts of the Broadmoor area of Pine Bluff were ravaged by a tornadic storm Wednesday evening, displacing approximately 200 families due to damage and downed power lines and poles in the area.
No deaths were reported; however, there were multiple injuries, including at least one person who was seriously wounded, emergency officials said.
The National Weather Service in Little Rock confirmed the area was hit at 6:19 p.m. Wednesday by an E-F1 tornado that packed winds between 86 and 110 miles per hour. The twister cut a 0.26-mile path and was 100 yards wide, the weather service said.
It began at South Wisconsin Street a few blocks south of the Martha Mitchell Expressway, then headed northeast over the Myranda Place apartment complex, which sustained heavy damage. At least two walls caved in, leaving units exposed. Trees and utility poles were snapped, and several trees were uprooted.
It is the 15th confirmed tornado in Arkansas for 2019.
A shelter was set up at the Pine Bluff Convention Center Wednesday night, where approximately 50 people from the apartments were sent after the storm.
Pine Bluff Mayor Shirley Washington was at the convention center helping to coordinate relief efforts. She said that “Our thoughts and prayers are with all of the residents affected by storms in Pine Bluff this evening. Our city is committed to supporting Pine Bluff families as we recover and rebuild.
“We have had outreach from citizens and churches all offering their support. It is time. Like this that you realize the true meaning of community.”
Pine Bluff Police Chief Kelvin Sergeant said that several agencies stepped in to help the City of Pine Bluff once emergency calls went out following the storm.
“Emergency management was there and MECA had personnel there to help with communications,” Sergeant said. “The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department, Arkansas State Police, the White Hall police and fire departments, and we had some volunteer firefighters assist with the Pine Bluff police and fire departments. There are several others who have called to offer assistance.”
Ward Two Alderman Win Trafford assisted with rescue and recovery efforts at the apartment complex before helping to head up operations at the convention center. Trafford said that he is proud of the way operations went once emergency calls began to come in.
“I arrived on the scene, and I could see the devastation and the need to streamline the process for all of the victims,” Trafford said.
“I am very thankful that our rescue operations went very well and no one lost their lives in this. We were able to make the phone calls to get our public transit in line, and we were able to get the Convention Center open so we could get people to a safe place to assess their needs. It was huge seeing White Hall and Jefferson County respond with all of their resources. It was amazing. I am very proud of my town, and I’m very proud that we have all come together. I couldn’t be any happier with everyone being okay, accounted for, and taken care of.”
White Hall Mayor Noel Foster said that he knew that if White Hall had a need, the City of Pine Bluff would respond, so he had no hesitation in sending resources to help.
"The City of White Hall will always respond to help those in need,” Foster said. “We enjoy a great relationship Pine Bluff Mayor Shirley Washington and the Mayors leadership team. Pine Bluff would do the same to help us if we were in need.”
Pine Bluff resident Lamar Henderson was in the area when the storms hit. He described what he saw during the tornado.
“My parents stay in front of the apartments on Sixth (Avenue). I was there to see them,” Henderson said. “It was just real dark over there. I just saw a lot of trees and powerlines falling. I know a lot of people [in the apartments] who have kids, so we just tried to get over there to see how we could help get people out. We just needed to get people out of there.”
Henderson and a friend then left the scene to purchase pizzas for the displaced residents who were at the Pine Bluff Convention Center.
“Me and my partner Michael Mayfield and a lot of people from the community came together and started donating,” Henderson said. “There’s a lot of good people in this community, and now our community is just coming together as one.”
Mayfield said it is good to see the community come together to help those in need.
“This is recharging the community,” he said. “It is just good to see everybody come together to donate and help the community they were raised in. We are just giving back. Tomorrow is going to be a better day”
The American Red Cross Pine Bluff office responded to the convention center Wednesday evening to begin assisting citizens with immediate needs. Disaster Program Specialist Michelle Corbin noted how her office can assist displaced citizens at this time.
“We are providing anything they need,” Corbin said. “Shelter, food and comfort kits. The comfort kits have soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorant – just any necessities they need to help them with hygiene and things of that nature. We are offering sheltering, food, and clothes. We do have the Salvation Army here as well to help support us as well.”
Captain Chwight Olige from Pine Bluff Salvation Army chapter has been working with his staff to assist residents in need as well.
“We are the only emergency shelter in town, so we are housing those who are in need of housing,” Olige said.
“With the issue with the weather we have had an increase in people in our shelter. During a disaster, we work hand in hand with the Red Cross. They are helping with shelter needs, and we are helping with food and long term needs such as clothing and in special circumstance we can help with financial assistance.”
Olige said that he has been happy to see the community respond to help their fellow citizens during the time of need.
“This is an amazing thing. It is the way it is supposed to work in a community,” Olige said. “A lot of times when things are in disarray it can throw people’s lives into chaos. This is a crisis, and it is amazing to see the community coming together to help provide. This is the way it is supposed to happen.”
The American Red Cross has two local numbers to contact. If you are in need of assistance, call 501-748-1021. If you would like to donate assistance call 870-534-7312. Additionally, the Salvation Army of Pine Bluff can be reached at 870-534-0504.