Dozens of homes and businesses looked like they were shredded by "high explosives," Lt. Gov. Bill Halter said Sunday as he surveyed the damage a day after a powerful storm injured 40 people.
State police said all residents were accounted following a door-to-door search of Dumas, where a tornado cut a swath through town and injured 27 people on Saturday.
Two children, ages 5 and 7, were critically injured when the storm flipped their mobile home and trapped them inside, Desha County Sheriff Jim Snyder said.
It took two hours for rescuers to get them out, he said.
Kevin Hill, who pulled furniture from the rubble with his family, said they were out running an errand -- picking up a saw blade in Pine Bluff -- when the storm ripped apart their brick-and-mortar home.
"Thank God for a five-dollar saw blade or we would have all been inside the house," said Hill, 42.
The storms in Arkansas were part of a massive system that also caused blizzard conditions in the Midwest. Snyder said weather forecasters told him the storm packed winds estimated between 158 and 207 mph.
Damage was reported along a five-mile-long, half-mile-wide swath south and east of Dumas, which is about 90 miles southeast of Little Rock.
In all, 43 houses and 50 mobile homes were destroyed or damaged around Dumas; and nine had major damage, the Department of Emergency Management said.
"Some of these homes looked like they had high explosives in them," Halter said. "All that's left is the foundation."
A general merchandise store and a pet-food factory were among the 25 businesses leveled in the town of 5,300 people. Nine other businesses had major damage, the state Department of Emergency Management said.
"We feel like we've probably got 800 unemployed today as a result," Snyder said.
Halter, acting governor while Gov. Mike Beebe is out of state, said the county would be declared a disaster area. He estimated damage in the millions of dollars. Beebe planned to return early from a National Governors Association conference in Washington to survey the damage Monday, a spokesperson said.
State Police Director Steve Dozier said a 6 p.m. to 7 a.m. curfew would be in place again Sunday night to prevent looting. About 140 members of the Arkansas National Guard policed the area and helped with recovery work.
At least 78 people sought refuge in shelters where workers served meals and tended to health concerns Sunday.
The sheriff said it may be three to five days before power could be restored. The storms also polluted the town's drinking water, which residents were told to boil.