It has been a scary night here in Fort Smith and Van Buren. We have had tornado warnings, severe stroms and
extreme hail. It got so bad that I made the decision to take my 26 year old daughter, grandkids and my dog Halle to
the neighborhood storm shelter. The sirens were going off and they warned about rotation and very large hail.
In fact, just as we were arriving at the shelter, it started pelting the car. I mean, I thought it was going to come through the roof! We pulled up and the kids and my daughter managed to get out of the car but just as they were reaching the shelter, it opened up in rapid fire. I was stuck in the car with my dog and all I could do was pray. I was scared to death that it was actually going to shatter the windshield or come through the roof of the car. It died down for just a second and I bolted with my dog to safety. My daughter actually got hit by a golf ball sized piece right on her thigh! It bruised almost immediately!
After the initial threat passed, we headed back to the car to head home and found my car windshield with a softball sized break in it, and it looked like I had parked it in a war zone! This is my new, used 2000 Toyota Camry Solara that I just got 2 months ago! I don't know how they will be able to fix all the damage. It is even on the sides of the car!
We all made it through that wave of storms. My son who was at his dads house in Kibler, got struck in the head by hail as well! Thank God nobody was seriously hurt... except for my poor car!
This brought me back to April 21, 1996. My 3 children and I took refuge under an overpass in Arkoma, Oklahoma as lighting lit up the night sky and we saw the ominous, massive black funnel descending out of the clouds. When I saw it I said to myself, "My God, this is going to be bad".
The F3 tornado killed three people, injured 89 others, and resulted in $300 million damage. The damage total was one of the highest on record for any tornado.
It touched down at 11:12 pm in Moffett, Oklahoma, and quickly crossed the Arkansas River into Arkansas. It moved through Fort Smith, and then through Van Buren in extreme southwestern Crawford County. The tornado lifted one mile south of Rudy, at 11:28 pm.
Two young children were killed in Fort Smith. Forty people were injured in Sebastian County, while another 49 were injured in Crawford County.
Thirty-five homes were destroyed in Sebastian County, and another 120 sustained major damage. In Crawford County, 463 homes were destroyed, and 500 others heavily damaged.
The tornado was on the ground for ten miles, reaching a maximum width of more than 0.5 mile between Fort Smith and Van Buren.
The tornado showed no mercy and left a path of destruction for miles. Many lives were changed that night.
I had never been so scared.
These are both Aerial views of damage in the Mount Vista area of Van Buren taken by Rick McFarland of the Arkansas Democrat Gazette.
This is downtown Fort Smith the day after.