Friday, April 10, 2009

Massive Tornado Hits Our Hometown

Many of you have probably heard by now about the tornado that hit Mena - the town where Russ and I grew up, where both of our parents and extended families still live. Our families are fine (thank you to all who have called today to check on them). My parents were tucked safely away in their basement (my mom high-tails it there if so much as the teeniest rumble of thunder rolls in, so she'd probably been hunkered down for hours when "go-time" arrived) and Russ's family ran to their underground cellar as soon as the warning sirens sounded. Both of their houses and properties sustained minimal damage, just a few torn shingles and broken trees, despite softball sized hail and winds in excess of 200 miles an hour reported around town.

(*At the time these pictures were taken by a local townsman, most of the hardest hit areas were still being quarantined off by the National Guard, due to downed power lines, fallen trees, and continued rescue efforts.)

Russ's brother had a bit of a scare. He was in Walmart, which was right in the path of the destruction, last night when the storm rolled through. He escaped the building unharmed, but found his truck in a different spot from where he'd parked it in the parking lot. Apparently, the tornado had picked it up and (not so politely) moved it several rows over. Craziness!! Lee, understandably, was a tad frazzled. But even with all of the glass flying everywhere, he escaped without so much as a scratch. PTL!!

Several townspeople, however, were not so fortunate. Three people were killed, including one woman from my parents' church, and dozens of others were injured. From the ferocity of the storm, it's a miracle more fatalities didn't occur. Many were reportedly saved by fleeing from their homes around Jansen Park to find retreat in the basement of the local Courthouse. Families emerged to find their homes totally gone - nothing but a concrete slab left behind.

I know it's the description always used during a disaster such as this, but, really, the poor town looks like a war zone. Hundreds of houses have been reduced to rubble in the aftermath. Windows have been blown out, century-old trees have been jerked out of the ground, and we've even heard scary reports of people being "sucked out of their shoes" as they clung to plumbing in their bathrooms. Authorities are estimating power to be out for the next week to ten days, and several main gas lines have ruptured.

(*Photo from Arkansas Online Focus.) Seriously, doesn't this spooky scene look like it came straight out of the movie "Twister"?

It's extremely emotional for us to see pictures of such mass destruction and hear stories of such loss. It's disheartening, and we're not even there - in the trenches, in the dark. I ask you, if you will, to please keep everyone affected by this trial in your prayers. Mena is such a great little town, with sweet, genuine, hardworking townspeople and an incredibly strong sense of community. When I talked to my dad this morning, he said one of the great things about living in a small town is the surplus of chainsaw/tractor/front-end loader owners. He said it jokingly, of course. What he's really talking about are the people behind the equipment. Hundreds there immediately. Ready to help -- gladly, tirelessly, without a moment's hesitation.

That's what I think of proudly when I think of my hometown.


I don't know how many of our hometown buddies might be reading this (I know most internet service is down), but if you are, we'd love to hear from y'all. Families safe? Homes still intact? We'd so appreciate it if you'd drop us a quick note to say you're okay.

Updated to add: Here is a video of the twister a guy we went to highschool with took from his front porch, as well as some shocking footage from the morning after.


onemorebaby said...

Omg... my thoughts and prayers are with all of those there. I remember the terror when the alarms would sound when I lived in Tx. Thankfull I only ever had a minor "brush" with a tornado. I will hope for a quick recovory to the area. Wow.

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry to hear this news but am very thankful your family and friends are safe and sound. I will be sending thoughts their way.

Shayna said...

I said the same thing over in my blog earlier - check in please, buddies! I'm very glad your families are okay. Mine are fine as well - Andy and the gang are staying over with Mama and Daddy because they don't have electricity, but miraculously Mama and Daddy got theirs back today. It's going to be an interesting Easter morning. I almost drove home but some of the roads are still blocked by trees, supposedly.

Kritter Krit said...

Thanks for the well-wishes and prayers, guys. I appreciate it!


We were planning to go home, too, but decided not to due to all of the lines and trees (reportedly) down. I was thinking the same thing - Easter morning should be interesting. All of the churches around Jansen Part got hit, to some degree or another. I think the only "big" functioning churches right now are Dallas Avenue and our parents' church (and anything north of Walmart). Those two may be bursting at the seams.

Anonymous said...

How awful - I just checked your blog. The news didn't reach across the ocean. So glad to hear your families are okay.
Our best wishes to everyone.

Kristy said...

We are fine, here it didn't even move our trampoline, and we are only about 3 minutes from downtown... (behind the h.s.)
It is crazy and emotional to see everything. =(
I posted some pictures of Main St and the courthouse on my blog.

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