9:30 p.m., Thursday Update:
Just before 10 p.m. Thursday, the most concerning activity resides across far northern Arkansas and will be lifting out of the state around midnight. After that, the weather will begin to quiet down for the remainder of the night. Some windiness will still remain along with scattered showers but tornadic weather and wind gusts above 40 MPH will come to an end.
More than two dozen storm reports have come in today from Laura as it has tracked through Arkansas. Many are reports of downed trees and powerlines.
Throughout the day, max wind gusts have been right on point with our forecast. Most of the peak values have ranged from 45 to 50 MPH with the highest reports near El Dorado which peaked near 60 MPH.
5 p.m., Thursday Update:
(AP)- Hurricane Laura has weakened to a tropical storm with maximum sustained winds of nearly 70 mph. Authorities say the storm is now 50 miles southeast of Shreveport.
Flooding rainfall and damaging winds spread inland over central and northern Louisiana, where the storm made landfall eleven hours earlier as a Category 4 storm.
Communities along the Gulf Coast experienced high water levels in the wake of Laura, the strongest storm to hit the U.S. this year.
More than 700,000 people in Louisiana and Texas were without power Thursday afternoon, according to the website PowerOutage.Us, which tracks utility reports.
National Weather Service officials said the remnants of Hurricane Laura could spawn tornadoes and cause flash flooding in parts of Arkansas and Tennessee.
Hurricane Laura made landfall near Cameron, Louisiana early Thursday morning as a strong Category 4 storm. Max sustained winds were close to 150mph. It will continue to weaken as it heads north through Louisiana into Arkansas later today.
The National Hurricane Center says the storm is bringing catastrophic storm surge, extreme winds and flash flooding to portions of Louisiana this morning. There has been one report of one death in Louisiana, and the death toll is feared to rise as recovery efforts get underway.
10 a.m., Thursday Update:
Laura has been downgraded to a weak Category 1 hurricane with max sustained wind at 75mph and is tracking north at 16mph. It is expected to weaken to a tropical storm as it enters Arkansas later today and tonight.
There is a low chance for a few spin-up tornadoes in Arkansas, particularly north & east of the center of the track as it heads through Arkansas. A Tornado Watch is in effect for parts of central and southeast Arkansas until 4pm cdt. It is possible another watch could be issued later as Laura tracks farther north through the state. Some of those cities under the current tornado watch include: Little Rock, Pine Bluff, Arkadelphia, Stuttgart, Camden, Monticello & El Dorado.
Laura will bring tropical storm force winds (39mph+) to southwest and central Arkansas. Gusts could reach as high as 60mph in south Arkansas. A tropical storm warning is in effect for Little Rock and areas south.
Strong wind gusts up to 50 MPH will be possible for parts of Central Arkansas by Thursday evening as the center approaches.
Rainfall amounts of 3 to 6 inches with locally heavier amounts are possible through Friday.
Due to the high rainfall totals in the forecast, the National Weather Service in Little Rock has issued a Flash Flood Watch for much of central Arkansas until 7 p.m. cdt Friday.
To review flooding safety plans, make your own or learn more about the nature of flash flooding, click HERE.
Isolated tornadoes will also be possible with some of the rain bands, especially on the Northeast side of the circulation. Tornadoes associated with tropical systems are typically brief and weak, although stronger tornadoes can occasionally be possible.
The combination of heavy rainfall and strong winds could lead to trees and/or power lines coming down. We will likely see power outages across the state Thursday into Friday. Make sure you have your NOAA Weather Radios turned on and gather flash lights should your home lose power. Keeping extra batteries on standby and charging mobile devices is also a good idea.
Please check back often for updates as this forecast evolves. For an in-depth video, CLICK HERE.