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After twister, Arkansas governor tours its path

Mountainburg reaps praise; school prom keeps schedule by Bill Bowden | April 16, 2018 at 4:30 a.m.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson (facing camera) talks to volunteers who were helping clear trees Sunday after a tornado hit Mountainburg on Friday. Hutchinson toured the tornado damage Sunday morning and praised the emergency response.

MOUNTAINBURG -- Gov. Asa Hutchinson toured the tornado damage in this Crawford County town on Sunday morning and praised the emergency response.

"Y'all have done a great job in responding, and I'm primarily here to thank you for the community pulling together so well," Hutchinson told a small crowd at Mountainburg City Hall that included the mayor, sheriff, county judge, police chief and emergency workers.

An EF2 tornado with winds of about 120 miles per hour plowed through the middle of Mountainburg late Friday afternoon, uprooting trees, ripping roofs from homes and flipping vehicles off Interstate 49.

Diane Osburn of Berryville, who was visiting a relative in Mountainburg, said it looked like something out of The Wizard of Oz when she peeked out of a closet where she and two other relatives were hunkered down during the storm.

"I saw everything flying around," she said.

Nobody was hurt at that house, but they did lose part of the roof, said Osburn.

Four people were hospitalized Friday, three were rescued from their homes and 160 buildings were damaged. A firefighter who was helping with the cleanup effort on Saturday was injured and hospitalized, said Ethan Belt, another firefighter.

Brad Thomas, Crawford County's emergency coordinator, told Hutchinson a countywide siren system worked like it was supposed to and area television stations warned viewers that the tornado was coming.

"As I went and saw some of the damage today it strikes me that we're very blessed that only four people were injured," said Hutchinson. "It could have been a significant loss of life. Secondly, it's very impressive when you look at the fact that our warning system worked. One lady I talked to heard the alarm and took her four children into the storm shelter. That's preparation."

Hutchinson was undersecretary of Homeland Security for Border and Transportation Security from 2003 to 2005.

"Drawing from my old times at Homeland Security, anytime you anticipate a disaster like this, it's about preparation," said Hutchinson. "It's about being able to mitigate the damage that we know is coming from it. Then you see the scores of volunteers that are here, people from all over the River Valley."

Many of those volunteers had brought chain saws and other equipment to help their neighbors clear trees and other debris from their property, Hutchinson said.

Hutchinson said he would provide whatever help the state could to the city of Mountainburg.

"It's hard work they're going through right now -- very, very hard work," said Hutchinson. "It's not going to get done in a week. It's going to take longer. This is going to be a heartache for some time, but you grit, you bear it and get it done."

Mountainburg's high school prom was held Saturday night at The Barn at Payton's Place in Van Buren.

Belt, the firefighter, said half of Mountainburg was still without electricity at prom time, but the power was on in Van Buren.

"I know a lot of people were still without power," said Belt, who is a senior at Mountainburg High School. "So a lot of people went to a family member's house to get ready."

Colton Bane, a Mountainburg High School junior, said he's glad the prom wasn't postponed. Bane said he didn't hear any tornado talk at the prom.

"It was like normal, I think," said Bane. "Everyone who wanted to go went."

Metro on 04/16/2018

Print Headline: After twister, Hutchinson tours its path


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