Vilonia, Arkansas Leveled by Tornado OutbreakBy: Mike Tuttle - April 28, 2014
“Do you know what street we are on?”
Even longtime residents of Vilonia, Arkansas couldn’t recognize where they were after the town took a direct hit by a tornado Sunday evening.
Greg Johnson, tornado hunter and author of “Blown Away,” arrived in Vilonia just hours after the twister hit.
“When you see photos of nuclear bomb explosions and the total destruction they cause, what we are seeing in areas here is certainly comparable to that,” he said. “It’s like it has been hit with an atomic bomb – totally flattened.”
Johnson also posted on Twitter that this destruction looked worse than the EF2 tornado of 2011.
“We don’t have a count on injuries or missing. We’re trying to get a handle on the missing part,” Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe said this morning. “Just looking at the damage, this may be one of the strongest we have seen.”
Johnson saw firsthand the heartbreak that the tornado caused.
As it reached Vilonia, the 3,800 resident town just west of Little Rock, the tornado grew to approximately half a mile wide and will most likely be rated as the nation’s strongest twister to date this year, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Jeff Hood, who said that it has potential to be at least an EF3.
But, amidst the destruction, stories of survival are arising. There is a father who took his three girls into the bathtub when the warning was issued, the bathtub soon ripped from the house, rolling several yards from the home with dad and all four girls still huddled inside.
Johnson and his crew pulled rubble off of a basement and found three families underneath, including a small baby, totally unharmed.
Karla Ault, a Vilonia High School volleyball coach, sheltered in the school gymnasium as the storm passed. Unfortunately, when she reached her husband, he told her that their home had been reduced to the slab on which it had set.
“I’m just kind of numb. It’s just shock that you lost everything. You don’t understand everything you have until you realize that all I’ve got now is just what I have on,” Ault said.
So far across Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Iowa, the death toll stands at 18, but many are still missing or unaccounted for.
At a news conference in the Philippines, President Barack Obama sent his condolences and promised the government would help in the recovery.
“Your country will be there to help you recover and rebuild as long as it takes,” he said.
Before Sunday, the United States had not seen a tornado rated EF3 or higher since November 17, a streak of 160 days, the fourth longest on record.
Image via YouTube