Tornado rips through Little Rock

Homes, churches, businesses damaged early Friday in the latest of a string of disasters to hit Arkansas


"The people have continued to get pounded. . . Were tired. Its one more thing."

—Ginger Bailey, chair, Arkansas VOAD

Sunny skies are forecast through early next week as recovery efforts get underway in central Arkansas following a brutal night of tornadoes early Friday.

In Bryant, a Little Rock bedroom community of 25,000, a twister blew through a trailer park, causing fires, burning homes and forcing about 125 people into shelters. Many other homes in the community were damaged too, including the residence of the Rev. Russell Moore, of Bryant’s First United Methodist Church.

“We know the tornado came right through that trailer park,” said the Rev. Maxine Allen, the disaster coordinator for the Arkansas Conference of The United Methodist Church.

Moore and his family hid in a closet when the tornado struck and came out to a heavily damaged home.

“It looks like a lot of loss,” said Moore, who sounded exhausted in a telephone interview about the damage Friday.

All of the buildings on the campus of First Christian Church in Little Rock were also damaged by the tornado.

Allen said she expects those in the shelters to remain there until temporary housing can be arranged. No fatalities have been reported from the storms.

In the City of Little Rock, Robbie Tingle, a team leader for Mission Ministries in the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, was taking calls, making preparations for chainsaw crews to get started, and coordinating efforts with local churches and disaster relief organizations.

“Everything is very fluid right now,” he said

The American Red Cross, which has set up several shelters, is also starting its assessments of the damage in and around Saline County.

“We’ve already done assessments with the help of ham radio operators,” said Roger Elliot, state disaster director for the American Red Cross of Greater Arkansas.

It has not yet been a month since heavy rains deluged northern Arkansas, dropping about a foot of rain on communities and causing flooding. A few weeks before that it was heavy snow and in early February, deadly tornadoes swept through Arkansas and Tennessee, killing dozens.

“The people have continued to get pounded,” said Ginger Bailey, chairman of Arkansas VOAD. “We’re tired. It’s one more thing.”

Booneville, said Bailey, is one of those communities hardest hit recently. Heavy snow and flooding hit the community in March and then later in the month, 800 people lost their jobs after a fire swept through a Cargill beef processing plant.

Bailey took refuge in her bathroom in Little Rock’s northern suburbs when the tornadoes hit. Nearby, a hangar at a small airport was destroyed and several small planes were damaged.

“We’re still in the assessing mode,” Bailey said Friday.

After the twisters, heavy rain and lightening passed through, dumping about 3-4 inches rain from Thursday night into Friday morning.

“The lightening was unbelievable,” said Bailey.

The storm left about 40,000 without power.

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