VILONIA — Residents still sorting through the wreckage of their homes more than a week after an EF4 tornado devastated the Parkwood Meadows subdivision had different opinions on President Barack Obama's impending visit to the area Wednesday.
Where Obama goes in his afternoon tour of parts of Arkansas damaged in the April 27 tornado isn't clear, but Parkwood Meadows was among the hardest-hit areas with dozens of homes leveled by winds that are said to have approached 200 mph.
Sixteen people died in the tornado in Pulaski, Faulkner and White counties, making it the deadliest tornado in Arkansas since 1968.
Jonathan Dempsey, 24, wasn't home when the tornado hit, destroying his Parkwood Meadows home on Clover Ridge Road.
Dempsey said seeing the damage to his home and others around him reduced to piles of rubble on concrete slabs was "mind-blowing." The days since the tornado have been "bittersweet," he added, as residents dealt with the destruction and loss but also saw the community come together to overcome the disaster.
He had less kind words for Obama, who he said he suspects planned the visit for political reasons.
"I feel like it's for PR," Dempsey said, taking a break from cleaning up the wreckage of his home. "If he wanted to help, he could have been here last week when people were still on their slabs and mourning the loss of the people who died."
Daniel Smith, whose home on the street suffered substantial damage but is one of the few in the area that won't have to be torn down, said he believes Obama's visit is a positive thing.
Smith survived with his family at a safe room built at Vilonia High School after a tornado three years ago. He estimated 200 people were there with him, including many who returned to destroyed homes.
Smith put out an Arkansas flag in front of his home Wednesday and kept his 9- and 6-year-old boys home with him in case the president came by.
"I'm glad he's coming to show his support," Smith, 36, said. "Whether you support him or disagree or agree with his policies, he's still our president and he deserves respect."
If Obama does go through Clover Ridge Drive, Smith said, he and his kids will "wave, smile and be thankful he came by" the home where the family intends to return.
"We're gonna rebuild it," Smith said. "And we're staying. But this time we're gonna have a storm shelter."