- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 6, 2008

LITTLE ROCK (AP) — Tornadoes touched down yesterday in many parts of Arkansas, causing several deaths and injuries and disrupting voting in the state’s presidential primary.

Renee Preslar, a spokeswoman for the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management, said a tornado touched down near Highways 324 and 105 in Atkins’ downtown, then stayed on the ground and passed into Conway County to the east. Miss Preslar said injuries were reported after the tornado, but communication remained difficult with victims and those responding to the emergency.

Trained spotters reported a tornado on the ground near the Conway-Van Buren county line shortly after the tornado was reported at Atkins. Miss Preslar said local officials were trying to assess damage from the twister.

Near Ash Flat, spotters reported seeing a tornado along Highway 354 just before 7 p.m. Spotters reported seeing a tornado in Yell County near Ola.

Spotters also reported seeing a tornado near Gassville and Wonderville in north-central Arkansas. Initial radio traffic from Baxter County sheriff’s deputies said several people were injured in Gassville, as well as debris and houses blocking U.S. Route 62 through the center of town. The injuries could not be confirmed.

The tornadoes were part of a line of severe storms that stretched across much of the nation’s midsection from Texas to the Great Lakes on a day when voters in many states headed to polls for Super Tuesday primaries.

Natasha Naragon, a spokeswoman with the secretary of state’s office in Arkansas, said a voting site in Gassville had to close because of a tornado. She said another voting place in Atkins continued functioning even as it served as a Red Cross shelter.

She said she received reports of several voting locations in northern Conway County shutting down because of tornadoes.

“It’s been a wild night,” state emergency management spokesman Tommy Jackson told KATV in Little Rock. “A heck of a way to have elections in Arkansas.”

In Tennessee, Secretary of State Riley Darnell declared that he had closed a small number of polling places in western part of the state in response to a series of strong tornadoes. At least 86 persons were injured in Jackson, and there were fatalities.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton sent out a press release with the alert that her campaign would try to help out voters who could not reach their caucus locations because of the poor weather in New Mexico.

And in Arkansas, Mike Huckabee, a Republican presidential candidate who served 10 years as governor of the state, offered his condolences.

“The news of these deadly tornadoes bring back many memories of dealing with numerous tornadoes during my tenure as governor,” he said, adding that the brutal weather put the waiting for election results in perspective. “We are reminded that nothing is as important as the lives of these fellow Arkansans, and our hearts go out to their families.”

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