Tuesday, May 04, 2010

TOP STORY >> Twister terrorizes communities

A tree fell on a home on LeMay Road near Hwy. 321 in Lonoke County, where more than 100 homes were destroyed.
A tornado caused extensive damage to a home on Hwy. 38 in Lonoke County.


Leader staff writer

Many Lonoke County residents spent the weekend cutting trees and patching roofs after Friday’s tornado slashed a path through the area.

John and Doris Szafranski were out Saturday surveying the damage to their property at 1950 Graham Road.

The more than 100-miles per hour twister peeled the shingles and roofing felt off their mobile home. The weight of the rain soaked the cellulose insulation in the attic causing the ceilings to crash down. A splattering of thick gray insulation coated the inside of their home.

Szafranski, a maintenance man at Jacksonville High School, said, “We are all thankful we’re all here. Everything can be replaced.”

Doris said that during the storm, “We had 13 people in the storm shelter last night. We just barely made it in. No sooner than we got the door shut it came. It sounded like a vacuum and an airplane. Everyone’s ears were popping. I’ve never experienced anything like that.”

Two houses down at 1840 Graham Road, Doris’ brother Homer White was salvaging what possessions he had left scattered in his yard. His mobile home looked like it exploded. The tornado tossed his trailer several feet from its foundation. Family and friends were helping White gather items that could be saved. He was preparing to dig a hole in his backyard just to bury all the debris that was his home.

Luckily, White was not inside the trailer. He rode the storm out in his pickup truck parked on his property.

White said, “I was watching the news when I saw it was going to hit Kerr and Graham (Roads). I jumped into my truck and (drove) in an open spot so no trees would fall (on the truck).”

He brought along a pillow and lay down in the back floorboard of his truck.

White said, “I thought the truck was going to flip. Three to five seconds it was gone.”

He said a sheriff’s deputy was at his driveway tracking the storm when the tornado passed over.

The twister picked up the front end of the patrol car and slammed it down to the ground.

More than 100 homes were destroyed in Lonoke County. Several homes were destroyed or damaged in the South Bend Community in Pulaski County.

Employees of the Home Depot in Cabot were helping residents living along Hwy. 321, Hwy. 38 and Hwy. 31 protect their damaged homes from the weather.

Store manager Kelly Ivey said 11 Home Depot employees volunteered to help out storm victims as part of Team Depot. She said they were out for 10 hours on Saturday and helped 24 families. Ivey said the crew stopped at 80 to 100 houses.

The volunteer team cleaned up debris. They placed OSB (oriented strand board) over holes in roofs, walls and doors. They put plastic sheeting on roofs to help keep the rain out.

They went back out on Sunday to make sure the work they did held during the second round of severe weather the night before.

“We provided all the material and donated the time. We asked nothing in return. It is something we all wanted to do,” Ivey said.

Ivey said the Home Depot was contacted by the American Red Cross to help an elderly family in Ward on Tuesday. Volunteers cleared debris and cut fallen trees into firewood for the couple to use during the winter.

She said Team Depot is a volunteer program helping the community in many ways such as helping with food pantries, not just during disasters.

Ivey said, “It was all about giving back and just helping those who had nothing else.”

Storm damage in Beebe was limited to the southeast edge of town, where several homes were damaged in the Jones Road and Campground Road area.

An older two-story house on Jones Road suffered severe damage to the backside of the structure, and a mobile home was completely destroyed. Another house across the street had significant roof damage.

A family on Jones Road was very fortunate to have only slight damage despite three uprooted trees near their single floor home.

On Campground Road, a newer two-story home had its roof torn off and was patched up with a tarp by Saturday morning. The property also had scattered debris across the field from other homes in the area.