WEST MEMPHIS, ARK., DEC. 15 -- Mayor Keith Ingram, whose town was hard-hit by a tornado that killed at least six persons Monday night, imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew today as National Guard troops patrolled the stricken area.
Mayoral spokesman Mike Lawhead said it may take two days to restore power to about 4,500 homes in the eastern part of the city.
Lawhead said the curfew would help authorities to control looting. "They're keeping all the streets where homes got wiped out shut off except for the people who live there," he said.
The twister touched down without warning at 9:45 p.m. CST and devastated a path three blocks wide and 1 1/2 miles long on the southeast side of West Memphis, a town of 30,000. Then it jumped the Mississippi River into Tennessee and demolished at least 10 houses in Memphis.
Police Lt. Gary Gitchell said West Memphis does not have a warning siren and that one might not have helped. "Last night, it was just here," he said of the twister. "It was that quick."
Following a foot-by-foot search of collapsed homes, businesses and three apartment complexes, rescue authorities said that six persons were killed and that 250 were treated at hospitals on both sides of the river, with 27 admitted.
Leon McGoogan, director of the Arkansas Office of Emergency Services, said a preliminary survey indicated that 100 houses were destroyed or heavily damaged, 35 businesses were destroyed, three apartment complexes were heavily damaged and an elementary school was destroyed. The preliminary damage estimate is $22 million, he said.
"I don't think it will be any lower, but it could be higher," McGoogan said.
The downtown area was choked with downed trees, utility poles and lines and debris. Pieces of metal were wrapped around tree limbs 30 to 40 feet above ground. Several dozen trucks parked along Interstate 40 were damaged.
Mary Spears, a community center volunteer, said she was in Memphis when the storm hit. An odd thing, she said, was that it was "real cold. Then, for about 30 minutes or an hour, it got so hot you had to pull your coat off.
"It was blazing hot outside, and the sky was red, red," she said. "The next thing I knew, there was torrential rain and . . . . it sounded like 20 jets taking off."
Gitchell said looting occurred overnight, particularly at a supermarket where looters might have taken contaminated food, until National Guard troops started patrols.
Ben Lee, 36, of West Memphis, described his close call in his ground-floor apartment in the destroyed Fountainhead complex. He said he pulled a sofa onto himself just as a wall collapsed, trapping him for 30 minutes until neighbors heard his cries and dug him out.
"If you saw my apartment, you'd know I'm supposed to be dead," Lee said.
Five bodies were found during the night, and the sixth was found this morning in the wreckage of the Mid-Continent Truck Stop near I-40 by crews using heavy equipment and hand tools and guided by dogs. "Everyone appears so far to be accounted for," Gitchell said.
Authorities identified the dead as John David Russell, 17, of Heth, Ark.; Helen Beasley, 11 months, of West Memphis; Edith Angus, 48, of West Memphis; Charles Perry Jr., 66, of Memphis; Terry Lee Taylor, age and home town unknown, and Tammy Gunn, 29, of Memphis.
According to emergency management agencies, hospitals in West Memphis treated 133 people and admitted 27, later transferring three to a hospital in Memphis. A total of 120 people were treated in Memphis hospitals, including the three from West Memphis.