Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Path Of The Storm

This is a map that shows the path of the F3 tornado that ripped through Mena on April 9. You can view a large version of this map here.

Arkansas National Guard soldiers and state prisoner work crews are removing debris while firefighters and volunteers from all over are helping residents recover from a devastating tornado.

The massive effort is helping restore function to the city of 5,700, but some residents are showing the strain they're under.

"We're getting a lot of calls (from people who are) physically and mentally breaking down. It's finally sinking in to them. A lot of people haven't had sleep in 24 hours. It's taking a toll," Reeves said.

Fifty soldiers from the National Guard worked security and on debris removal, and 60 prisoners aided in the removal effort, though not necessarily shoulder-to-shoulder with the troops.

The tornado, with winds estimated at between 136-165 mph, struck Thursday evening, killing five and injuring at least 60. About 600 homes were damaged or destroyed, major employers and government buildings sustained severe damage and the county's emergency communications center was still inoperable on Saturday.

Plenty of people are aiding in the recovery effort. Firefighters and sheriff's deputies from several counties, church groups, charitable organizations and others are playing roles that range from performing stoop labor to distributing food and water.

Matt DeCample, spokesman for Gov. Mike Beebe, said that the scope of the damage was still stunning to consider. A tornado in Dumas in 2007 cut through town, knocking out several businesses and damaging or destroying 150 homes, but equal to only a fraction of the damage in Mena.

"The feeling we get is that Mena has the worst residential damage in one town that we've seen in many years, DeCample said. "For the concentration in one residential town, this has been a big one."

The recovery effort has a long way to go, but Reeves said electricity has been restored to rural areas and that crews are working to get power to parts of Mena that can accept it.

But most much of the area will be in the dark for a while yet, and Reeves put out a call for people to donate ice chests and more tarps. He said 1,000 tarps had been put to use but there were many more roofs to cover.

"We're trying to secure everything we can secure," Reeves said.


  1. A good bit of reporting, Richie...Thanks for the update...will continue to keep all of you in my prayers! Blessings to you, Janine

  2. I just wish that there will be time to repair the damage, and, above all, that you people will be spared from such happenings. But I know that in your area tornados happen all the time. Lets pray that it does not happen to often.

  3. Good luck for the coming period. Work hard, but not too hard: a worn-out person doesn't do anybody any good!

  4. I hope for you and all the people living there that nothing happen now and in the future!

    We are now in Branson MO for a longer while and this is also a "Tornado region"...we had experiences with Hurricanes and hoping for not to have any experiences with Tornadoes!

    Sue's Daily Photography

  5. Hi Mr. Lawry,
    I was wondering where you got this information? I've been looking through several local news sources and I am not finding much.

    Thanks so much,
    J. Brewer

  6. Terrible, terrible destruction. Thanks for the update, Richard. Our church here has sent some funds to Christ Church, Mena, in hopes that most of it will be used in the community where it's most needed.

  7. I've been praying for you and everyone down there. Thank you for the photos--these were the first ones I had seen. It kind of leaves me speechless.

  8. Oh no Richie! I was so worried about you because I haven't seen you in a couple of weeks. And now I know why. Praying for you and your family!

  9. Richard, I have been thinking about you folks so much. I had tried to post a comment a couple of times but the server wanted to hiccup. My prayers are with you. God's blessings.

  10. I pray that you all have picked up the broken pieces and move on with life.