MAYFLOWER — Mayor Randy Holland said that just when the city was rebounding from the ExxonMobil oil spill, the tornado hit.
“It’s been a little over a year since Exxon, that whole problem, and we’re just now recovering from that and were just to the point where things were going good,” he said. “All of a sudden, here this comes, and it tears up a lot of people’s lives.”
He said the city’s three deaths from the tornado are hard on the community. The fatalities were Mark Bradley, 51; Helen Greer, 72; and Robert Oliver, 82.
Greer was killed, he said, even though she was in her safe room, because the door was breached.
A pipeline under a Mayflower neighborhood burst March 29, 2013, spilling an estimated 210,000 gallons of heavy crude oil and causing the evacuation of 22 homes.
A meteorologist for the National Weather Service in North Little Rock said Tuesday that the twister was “at least an EF 3 — they’re not done surveying.”
In Sunday’s tornado, Mayflower businesses were damaged or destroyed, like H&B True Value Hardware.
“Totally gone,” Holland said. “All those south of there — Mayflower RV, totally gone.
“You just have to look ahead on down the road; it affects our sales tax. Us and Vilonia took a big hit,” Holland said, referring to the storm’s destruction of Vilonia businesses.
Sales tax from commercial developments “is how we get money to run the city,” he said.
Lumber One on Arkansas 365 in Mayflower was having repairs done Monday, and manager Bob Jones, who was watching from the parking lot, said the business would be open again by Wednesday. He said most of the damage was in the back of the business and on the roof. Lumber One’s door-making company, M3 Millworks, across the street, was destroyed.
“We made doors over there. We’ll rebuild that, too,” Jones said.
Holland said Lifeline Church — “it tore that all to pieces. That was amazing to see that. It stacked all that up like you’d stack up Matchbox cars.”
The mayor said he has gotten lots of offers of help, including from President Barack Obama and Speaker of the House John Boehner.
Holland said he and Gov. Mike Beebe were touring the area when the president called.
“I only got to say, ‘Hello, Mr. President.’ He said anything we need, we’ve got it,” Holland said.
“I’ve had so much response in this whole state. All of the cities in Arkansas stick together. I’ve had every mayor — no telling how many mayors — tell me any way they could help, they’d be here,” Holland said.
Holland said on Monday afternoon that he hadn’t been to sleep since Sunday night’s deadly tornado hit the town. He was tired and emotional about the situation, he said.
“One thing everybody has asked me is what can we do? The one thing they can do is pray for Mayflower,” he said.
Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or firstname.lastname@example.org.