Clean-up continues from weekend storms

BY PJ HELLER | LITTLE ROCK, AR | February 27, 2001

"We were very fortunate," said Kathy Botsford, director of emergency services for Pulaski County. "Looking at some of those homes, it was

a miracle (that no one was killed)."

For some, including people living in College Station in the northeastern part of the county, the tornadoes Saturday were a grim reminder of the forces of nature. Some of the homes destroyed by the twister had been rebuilt after being demolished by tornadoes in March 1997.

One woman, who lost her home there for the second time, told Botsford, "I'm out of here."

Saturday's twisters followed the same route, moving from the southwest to the northeast, as the deadly tornadoes in 1997.

"It was bad now but it was much worse then," she said.

Officials reported that seven tornadoes touched down throughout the state over the weekend, injuring more than 20 people destroying or

damaging dozens of homes and businesses. Confirmed touchdowns were reported in Pulaski, Lonoke, Saline, White and Fulton counties.

The only fatality reported statewide was an 18-month-old toddler who lived in a mobile home with his family in Fulton County. The boy

died Sunday of head injuries suffered in the storm. His father remained hospitalized in serious condition.

Botsford said damage assessments were still under way Monday in Pulaski County, which was one of the hardest hit areas. Initial reports

said 28 to 30 homes suffered major damage or were destroyed and eight people were injured. Five businesses were also hit, three of which

were destroyed, she reported.

In Lonoke County, 10 homes were destroyed and 40 homes and 10 business were heavily damaged.

One of the buildings destroyed in Pulaski County was the Sandstone Church of Christ, which had served as a emergency relief center after

the 1997 tornadoes there.

"It's particularly said that they got hit because in '97 they were such an asset to the community," Botsford said.

"The church was such a focal point in 1997 and they did such a wonderful job of helping everybody and then this weekend they got hit," she said. "It's was tragic."

With rain forecast for Tuesday, residents and relief workers were racing to cover up damaged roofs and windows. They were also picking

through the rubble, trying to recover whatever possessions they could find.

Botsford said residents affected by the storm had found other lodging and that no shelters were open.

She praised the faith-based response to the storm.

"The churches have been wonderful as usual," she said. "Within an hour after the tornado hit, the Burnett Baptist Church and the Pratt Road

Baptist Church were set up as care centers in Pulaski County."

The Red Cross and the Salvation Army were also on the scene after the twisters hit.

Botsford said residents in recent months have faced a variety of bad weather, including a crippling ice storm on Dec. 12 and another one on

Dec. 25.

"We're still cleaning up from that then the tornado came through," Botsford said.

The area also had to deal with flooding two weeks ago.

"We've been very busy," she said.

Severe weekend weather also kept authorities busy in Texas and throughout the Plains states to the eastern half of the nation.

In north Texas, wind gusts of 80 mph raked the area, downing power lines, blowing shingles off roofs and disrupting air travel. One fatality was reported in northwest Texas.

Much of the damage Saturday was in Tarrant County, which is still recovering from a tornado which hit last year.

Elsewhere, heavy snow fell on Minnesota, South Dakota and Iowa. More than 20 inches of snow, whipped by high winds, was reported in

northeast Minnesota. Blizzard conditions made travel impossible and authorities shut down miles of interstate.

Heavy rain caused flooding in Missouri and Kansas. The snowstorm and icy conditions were blamed for six deaths in Minnesota, Nebraska,

Indiana and Wisconsin. One man was killed in Kansas when his car was swept off a bridge by flood waters.

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