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Feelings mixed on Obama visit to hard-hit Vilonia

By Gavin Lesnick

This article was published May 7, 2014 at 10:13 a.m.

jonathan-dempsey-center-in-the-blue-shirt-and-hat-works-to-clear-wreckage-around-his-home-in-the-parkwood-meadows-subdivision-wednesday

Jonathan Dempsey, center in the blue shirt and hat, works to clear wreckage around his home in the Parkwood Meadows subdivision Wednesday.

April 27th Tornado Retrospective

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette staff coverage of the April 27th EF4 tornado which tore through Central Ar...

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."

Comments on: Feelings mixed on Obama visit to hard-hit Vilonia

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AmericasDoomed says... May 7, 2014 at 10:49 a.m.

What a complete waste of taxpayer money. Over $200K an hour to fly Air Force One plus his massive entourage. Would be much better spent divvying that money up between tornado victims. Obama does nothing without a political motive. He hopes it will help Pryor.

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Walter601 says... May 7, 2014 at 10:57 a.m.

Obama will blame the tornado on global warming.

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JakeTidmore says... May 7, 2014 at 11:17 a.m.

Have made three donations to help these victims - twice to Red Cross and once for the animals. Saying anything else on the matter is the biggest waste of all. Put your money and thoughts where they'll help these folks, guys. Whether the political noise is from the politicians or the bloggers here, it's doing nothing to help these folks.

The right and left noise machines need to shut up for once and help deal with the tragedy and troubles of these people.

The folks from Vilonia and Mayflower need your gifts and money, not your overblown political views.

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FreeSpiritMan says... May 7, 2014 at 11:26 a.m.

All of you right wing idiots had no problem with GW Bush landing on a carrier in a fighter jet when the carrier was well within helicopter range. What was the point of that event, just to let us know the fighting was over in Iraq? DUH.

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drs01 says... May 7, 2014 at 11:27 a.m.

Thanks for your "holier than thou" pontificating comments. OBama should stay home, and just send a big check. Pryor has already had his photo-op so he can do the same.
Clinton has already been here and blessed the folks so that is the only photo-op we need. The Gov has done his job and will ask for disaster relief. Let the folks in Mayflower and Villonia have some peace.

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HalALouyah says... May 7, 2014 at 11:31 a.m.

What people say and do on the Internet has nothing to do with what they are doing to help these people, unless you want to get on here and brag about yourself. Of course the braggarts would be the same ones that ripped into Bush over Katrina. I just don't get why we really need to waste taxpayers money for ANY POTUS to visit these disaster sites; leave it up to the governors and local Congressmen to handle it. Matthew 6:1-4

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RonalFos says... May 7, 2014 at 11:36 a.m.

If Obama didn't come you would be calling him a SOB for not coming. So, again your constant bitching and whining about him voids anything you say.

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pkj says... May 7, 2014 at 11:36 a.m.

Can't believe you even gave any space in the paper to this nonsense. Oh wait a minute, never mind.

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