LITTLE ROCK -- Rivers swollen by overnight storms flooded fields and county roads Saturday, hindering efforts to restore electricity to homes and businesses.
At least two traffic deaths were blamed on the rain and heavy wind that started Friday and continued into early Saturday.
Officials in five counties declared local emergencies because of the flooding and wind damage, said Jennifer Gordon, a spokeswoman for the state Emergency Management Department.
At Harrisburg High School, the storm blew the roof off the cafeteria during a graduation ceremony, though no one was injured. In Crittenden County, 60 people had to leave their homes because of the storms, the department said. Most of the roof of a high school gymnasium blew off in Hughes after a graduation ceremony was over.
The National Weather Service had not yet confirmed that tornadoes were to blame for wind damage at Osceola, and in Jackson, Saline and White counties.
"It was just a miserable night," said James Thompson, a spokesman for Entergy Arkansas, the state's largest electric utility. He said 34,000 customers were out of service at the peak of the storms, but service had been restored to more than half by midmorning Saturday.
Thompson said high wind and lightning delayed efforts to restore power and water standing on roads made it hard for crews to reach damaged areas. In some areas, crews used helicopters to get in, he said.
In 24 hours, the town of Perry had 8 inches of rain, with 7.1 reported at Morrilton, 6.9 at Newport.