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The Sun-Times - Heber Springs, AR
  • Tornado ends in tragedy

  • A tornado caused destruction from Mayflower to El Paso
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  • What started as a near perfect spring turned to tragedy Sunday as a line of storms spawned a tornado that devastated a corridor from Mayflower to El Paso. 
     
    The National Weather Service in Little Rock were cautioning early Sunday morning that the storm system rolling through had the potential to become severely.  Tragically, their forecasts proved true when a tornado formed in the area around Maumelle and ripped through the communities of Mayflower and Vilonia.  Major damage was reported in Mayflower, on I-40, and in Vilonia, whose downtown area was practically flattened by the funnel cloud that was reportedly a half-mile wide in some areas and stayed on the ground for over an hour.  Vilonia was hit with a major tornado almost three years ago this month and most accounts we’ve received so far are that this tornado has caused more destruction than the one in 2011.  As of writing, deaths from the storm have reached 15, with Faulkner County being hit the hardest.  We’ve received no number of those possibly missing yet, which could increase the number of fatalities.
     
    Cleburne County residents were taking shelter as the initial path of the storm had it headed directly for our communities.  We began reporting tornado warnings for our area at 7:29pm Sunday evening. Originally, the warnings were for the western and northern portions of the county, but as the tornado began to veer east, the line of danger began to shift.  By 8pm, the tornado has shifted east and was in the El Paso area.  While the western portion of the county was now out of danger, Rose Bud was still in the possible path and we were urging residents to seek shelter immediately.  The funnel continued to veer east, missing Cleburne, but putting Searcy in its direct line.  The system changed again and missed Searcy, but continued in a northeast pattern until it weakened.
     
    At 9:21pm, Cleburne residents got another scare as a tornado warning was issued for residents in western Cleburne and eastern Independence Counties.  A rotation was reported just south of Wilburn, putting the Ida, Drasco, and Concord communities in its path.  Sirens sounded in Wilburn, Greers Ferry, and Heber Springs.  According to information we have, the rotation never formed into a funnel cloud, so we were fortunate to have escaped any devastation from it.
     
    The next day, debris from Vilonia, Mayflower, and Maumelle were reported in the area, especially in the Tumbling Shoals and Ida areas. 
     
    County and city officials reported that the storm system caused some minor flood damage on roads, but no major damage to structures was reported in our area.
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