Tornado Roars Through Evansville Valley
HOMES DESTROYED, ONLY MINOR INJURIES
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 was damaged during a tornado Wednesday night.
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 Oklahoma to northeast of Evansville, a length of about 11 miles.
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.