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Advanced storm warning credited with saving lives in Blytheville

BLYTHEVILLE, Ark. -- This weekend's wild weather left its mark on our neighbors in Arkansas, where many are cleaning up after tornadoes or still dealing with flood waters.

Severe weather expert Tim Simpson traveled to Northeast Arkansas Tuesday to see the damage and talk to some of the folks affected by the severe weather outbreak.

"All I heard was just the house shaking and wind just blowing hard man. And it woke me up."

Stephen Leal is fortunate. He and his girlfriend were inside their home when the storm hit early Saturday morning.

"It passed. I came into the living room. The windows were blown and the whole roof was gone," he said.

High winds and heavy rain pummeled the southeast section of Blytheville.

Several days later, there was still plenty of damage to be found. Huge trees were uprooted and shingles were ripped from roofs.

Even the brick wall of one home was no match for the strong winds.

Utility crews have been working around the clock to replace downed power lines, but some residents are still in the dark.

"We had just minor injuries."

Blytheville Mayor James Sanders said things could have been a lot worse. He's glad for the advanced warning provided by the News Channel 3 weather team.

"Blytheville...you are in the polygon."

Sanders said when rotation showed up in the polygon, he knew it was time to act.

"That alerted us. And shortly there after we were able to hit our sirens. And again, there was no loss of life here in Blytheville."

Blytheville wasn't the only place hit by the storm. The tornado that hit Dell, Arkansas was rated an EF-1 with peak winds of 105 miles per hour. The storm was 150 yards wide and was on the ground for just over five miles.

One family's home survived the initial tornado, but was crushed when a huge tree came tumbling down 16 hours later.

Now it's a matter of picking up the pieces and knowing that lives were saved thanks to advanced warnings.

"There's folks watching, and people who are making life decisions are actually watching."