The serenity and peace of Hot Springs Village and the surrounding area were disturbed last night when a tornado struck, causing much damage and upheaval. At 10:19 p.m. on Thursday, March 14, a friend notified me that a tornado had hit the Village, and the roof was torn off his friend’s home.

Crews started Thursday evening and will continue to work throughout the day

In a 6:00 a.m. telephone conversation today (Friday, March 15, 2024) with Todd Noles, Superintendent of Streets and Sanitation, he said, “The tornado took out power lines and poles, and it is a mess!” He received notification around 8:30 p.m. on Thursday evening and has been working through the night to clear the roads. Although he sent his crews home around 3:00, they were already starting to return to work at 6:00 a.m.

Noles said the tornado touched many areas, including but not limited to DeSoto Boulevard, Balearic Road, Viajero Way, Camino Road, Coronado Drive, and many surrounding side streets.

Noles stated that some houses have extensive damage, including blown-off roofs. Although it is unknown, there is concern people may be hurt or trapped in their homes, or worse, but they have not been able to get to all of them yet. State Police Search and Rescue will be here at daylight to begin searching the homes to check on people.

Cortez Fire Station is the location of the Command Center, and the teams received a briefing at 8:00 a.m.

Many are without power, including the POA building, affecting workers’ ability to refuel their vehicles.

Massive response from area agencies

Noles said they had received massive help from outside agencies, including the Arkansas State Police, Garland County Sherriff’s Office, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, Hot Springs City Street Department, Garland County Road Department, Hot Springs Urban Forestry Department, and Hot Springs Street Department, The entities all teamed together to help the Village clear the roads.

Additionally, all surrounding fire departments responded, and the U.S. Forest Service was on the scene to clear roads with their bulldozers.

Noles noted that we are fortunate that General Manager Kelly Hale has worked hard to rebuild our relationship with surrounding agencies.

Twenty-five inmates from the Garland County Jail will be here this morning to assist with the clearing.

Villager Donnie Fulmer gives a first-hand account

I talked to Villager Donnie Fulmer around 4:37 a.m. Fulmer worked through the night to assist the agencies and staff in clearing trees and directing traffic. Fulmer said there was hail larger than egg-sized up north at Barcelona and Cortez. “As soon as the hail started falling, I immediately knew the tornado had hit south of us. I went to the HSV Police Department, and everybody was already responding. I then went to the Cortez Fire Department, where the crews coordinated plans.”

Fulmer said he saw three vehicles on DeSoto Boulevard trapped under trees. Todd Noles and David Harper, HSVPOA Superintendent of Lakes, Dams, Common Property, and Forestry, Huey Applegate, and Brad Gaston responded to this incident. Fulmer said the response was quick, and they started cutting and removing the trees. Powerlines were laying all over DeSoto Boulevard.” Before cutting commenced, the powerlines were checked to see if they were live, and luckily, the downed power lines at this scene were not live.

Fulmer added, “Everybody has been working like gangbusters. The word I am getting is that we have trees on houses everywhere. All of Balearic was down, Minorca, all up through Fresno. He said trees were still falling while they were clearing.”

Hot Springs Village Police Chief Kristi Bennett

“We are getting a lot of ‘lookie-loos’ driving around in the area the tornado hit. All it is doing is causing congestion. People need to back away, stay put, and not go into the tornado zone; that would be very helpful. We have a lot of electric lines and trees down. We are getting too much traffic through the area. Stay home. Stay off the roads.”

“Please don’t call 911 to ask for road conditions or updates.”

“If you are not in town and want to check on a local, you can call the HSV non-emergency line (501.922.0011), and we will put the request on a list, but we cannot tell you it will be done immediately. We are still working to clear roadways to get to houses at this point.”

“Saline County Emergency Management, Garland County Emergency Management, Arkansas State Police, volunteer firefighters from all over the area, the Forestry Commission—everybody is here providing resources, including the electric companies.”

“The chief again stressed how important it is to stay out of the area.” (The general area is Fresno, Balearic, Montanoso, and more. – all the way down Balearic and off the side roads to Minorca.)

“At this time, no more help from Villagers is requested. At this point, we have enough outside resources.”

Chief Bennett said her home was in the middle of the tornado, but she and her husband were fine. “It did not touch my house or my neighbor’s, but everything around us is pretty demolished. We have some downed trees, and it damaged some recent plantings, but that is nothing compared to what could have happened. We are so blessed.”

As per Kelly Hale, Hot Springs Village General Manager (3.15.24 – 7:30 a.m.)

  • We are working on updates after we get daylight and can assess more. 
  • We have over 2500 homes impacted by power outages. 
  • We are not aware of any major injuries
  • Stay off roadways and away from damaged areas
  • Don’t get in the way, or we will put you to work clearing trees. (Note from Cheryl – This is somewhat of a joke, but please stay home.)

Hale said, “We have state and county assisting with Saline County OEM supporting the event.” 

The storms knocked down hundreds of trees and even caused some people to be stuck inside their vehicles, but they have since been rescued and are safe. As of now, no notable injuries have been reported.


Villagers asked to please conserve water today

Ken Unger, Hot Springs Village Public Services Director, has asked that everyone use as little water as possible today. This is due to system problems such as leaks and damage caused by the tornado.

He said that residents need to know that the situation is bad in the area affected by the tornado strike.

POA Closures

  • The POA Office is closed, and there is no trash service today.
  • All recreation facilities (Fitness Center, pickleball, tennis, etc.) will be closed today.
  • Tonight’s show at the Woodlands is still happening.
  • Evening Lion’s Bingo tonight has been canceled.
  • Golf courses are open, with the exception of Balboa. The golf department is closed (no power).

Please contact your neighbors and friends to see if anyone needs extra help.

Video of damage outside Village gates

Featured image: Storm damage is shown inside Hot Springs Village after a reported tornado Thursday night. (Photo courtesy of the Garland County Sheriff’s Office)

By Cheryl Dowden; Photography by Genn Noles, HSVPOA Equipment Operator Lead Foreman; Photo of road closed at Cortez and DeSoto by Joe Dowden

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