Tor­nado Roars Through Evansville Val­ley


Washington County Enterprise-Leader - - FRONT PAGE -

EVANSVILLE — The home of Mor­row Fire Chief Jeff Win­ning­ham was one of seven houses dam­aged by a tor­nado that swept through a ru­ral area in south­west­ern Wash­ing­ton County on Wed­nes­day night, ac­cord­ing to John Luther, di­rec­tor of Wash­ing­ton County Emer­gency Man­age­ment Depart­ment.

Luther was on scene fol­low­ing the storm at a com­mand post set up at Evansville Fire Depart­ment. Two peo­ple were brought in to the fire depart­ment to be checked by Cen­tral Emer­gency Man­age­ment Ser­vice and they had mi­nor cuts and in­juries.

“To have mul­ti­ple struc- tures dam­aged and not have any­one killed or in­jured, that’s very for­tu­nate,” Luther said Thurs­day af­ter­noon.

At least two houses, and pos­si­bly a third house, were de­stroyed by the tor­nado. The storm tore off roofs, de­stroyed stor­age build­ings and dam­aged a chicken house owned by Vi­tal Farms on Dobbs Moun­tain Road. Thurs­day, the chick­ens were be­ing re­lo­cated to an­other house.

The Na­tional Weather Ser­vice is­sued its first tor­nado warn­ing for the Evansville area around 10 p.m. Wed­nes­day. On Thurs­day af­ter­noon, the Weather Ser­vice con­firmed an EF2 tor­nado ripped through Evansville.

Peter Syn­der, NWS me­ter- ol­o­gist, said Fri­day the storm started in Adair County, Okla., with an end lo­ca­tion of 5.5 miles north­east of Evansville and east of High­way 59. The path length was 11 miles and the tor­nado was about 800 yards wide with peak winds es­ti­mated at 120-130 miles per hour, he added.

It de­stroyed or dam­aged out­build­ings, mo­bile homes and per­ma­nent homes, and up­rooted and snapped trees and power poles, Sny­der said.

Den­nis Gil­strap, di­rec­tor of Craw­ford County Emer­gency Man­age­ment Depart­ment, was in Evansville on Thurs­day as­sess­ing the dam­age and he said the

storm ap­peared to travel along High­way 59, jumped over what he calls Evansville Moun­tain and then landed again com­ing down the moun­tain. The path of the tor­nado was easy to see by fol­low­ing de­bris and trees knocked down to the ground.

Luther said the tor­nado downed trees and power lines and blew de­bris into roads. Many vol­un­teers showed up to clear roads of all the de­bris.

“It’s just one of those things you deal with dur­ing a storm at night,” Luther said.

Terry Hud­son of 22114 Ray Road in Evansville woke up just in time to take refuge in the bath­room.

He said he was awak­ened by a loud noise out­side, grabbed his wife, Su­san, who was asleep on the couch, and ran to the bath­room in the cou­ple’s home. At the same time, the win­dow near the couch shat­tered, and shards scratched them, Hud­son said.

The roof of the Hud­son house was peeled away. Hud­son could hear crack­ling as the log cabin splin­tered apart. The walls bowed, he said. The decks around the home were ripped away. Trees crashed down out­side.

“I think it was pretty much a full-on hit,” Hud­son said about the storm. “Ev­ery di­rec­tion you want to look there’s a tree lay­ing that way.”

He and his wife went out­side in time to see a “wedge” of the storm float­ing from their moun­tain­side down to­ward Dobbs Moun­tain Road, he said.

Dave Roberts at 21323 Dobbs Moun­tain Road heard a loud roar and told his wife, Dorothy, to run to the storm shel­ter while he grabbed his shoes. They only made it to the home’s pantry, Roberts said.

The roof of the 12-yearold home was peeled away. Roberts could hear the house break­ing apart around them.

“Then it was over — you could see the clouds,” Roberts said. “No time for fear.”

Luther said many emer­gency or­ga­ni­za­tions gath­ered to help Wed­nes­day night. Evansville Fire Depart­ment was the first to re­spond. Oth­ers who helped dur­ing the night were Wash­ing­ton County Sher­iff’s Of­fice, Prairie Grove, Lin­coln and Mor­row fire de­part­ments and mem­bers of the county’s Ur­ban Search and Res­cue team.

“It was a good col­lec­tive ef­fort. Ev­ery­one did their job,” Luther said.

The Amer­i­can Red Cross was pre­pared to help those in the storm with shel­ter but ev­ery­one had a place to stay Wed­nes­day night, ei­ther with fam­ily mem­bers or close friends, said Mike Kratch­mer, a Red Cross vol­un­teer. Kratch­mer re­turned Thurs­day to as­sess the dam­age and of­fer help to those in need.

Houses dam­aged were lo­cated ei­ther along Dobbs Moun­tain, Ray, An­ti­och or Hale Moun­tain roads or near those roads.

Kaye Tren­tham lives on Dobbs Moun­tain Road and was watch­ing the weather when the storm hit. She knew that a tor­nado warn­ing had been is­sued but did not take cover. She said she heard a big roar, wasn’t sure but thought it was prob­a­bly a tor­nado. The wind blew open her locked front storm door and dam­aged the door frame but the house did not have any other dam­ages.

Some­how it missed her house but hit the house next to her, she said.

She drove around the next day to look at the dam­ages around her, say­ing, “It’s bad.”

On Thurs­day af­ter­noon, Roberts stood in a home opened to the sky. Fur­ni­ture had been shat­tered. His am­a­teur ra­dio tower was de­stroyed. The home was com­pletely lost, he said.

But, the eggs on the counter had been un­touched. A Bi­ble on the shelf re­mained in­tact.

Friends and fam­ily milled about help­ing load fur­ni­ture onto flatbed trail­ers. A small bon­fire was go­ing. Some­one was cook­ing hot dogs. Roberts’ be­long­ings — what was left — would be stored at a fam­ily mem­ber’s house, he said.

“I’m the luck­i­est guy alive — I’m safe and look at the wealth of friends,” Roberts said.

Scar­let Sims with NWA Demo­crat- Gazette and Lynn Kutter with the En­ter­prise-Leader con­trib­uted to this re­port.


Terry Hud­son (from left) stands Thurs­day in the de­bris from his work­shop with friends Bill Grady and James Carey af­ter they check on him and his wife Su­san on their prop­erty on Ray Road near Evansville. Terry and Su­san Hud­son were in their home when it...


The path of the tor­nado can be seen by the line of up­rooted trees in the photo above. An EF2 tor­nado was con­firmed by the Na­tional Weather Ser­vice. The tor­nado dam­aged trees, elec­tric poles, houses, stor­age build­ings and trail­ers from Adair County in...


This chicken house, lo­cated in a val­ley along the path of the tor­nado, was de­stroyed last week dur­ing a storm that hit the Evansville area. Chick­ens were be­ing re­lo­cated to an­other house.

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