Scary night in Fort Smith and Van Buren

Industry Observer



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!



Golf ball hail hit!

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".


1996 Tornado



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.


1996 Tornado


This is downtown Fort Smith the day after.
This picture is from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette taken by Tom Ewart.


Downtown Fort Smith

These storms tonight left a lot of damage in their wake as well. One entire apartment complex had every window shattered by hail. Numerous cars had their windows busted out as well. They have opened up every shelter in the area to house those who have lost power and had windows or homes damaged.
I can already see the Hail Damage sales coming up at all the local car dealers. The Dent Repair people will be booked solid for months to come from this storm! 
We are due to have severe storms with a heavy threat of Tornados through the rest of tonight into the morning. So please say a prayer for our area and for those affected by these terrible storms tonight. The threat of flash flooding is also very high due to the large amount of rain we have had.
I will post again tomorrow and show the pictures of the damage to the car and see what else the daylight reveals.
To a safe and peaceful night,





Posted by

Susan Davis


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Nancy Brenner
Referral Associates of Georgia, Inc. - Roswell, GA
Roswell Georgia Real Estate Agent
Holy Cow, Susan.  I'm glad you all escaped serious injury.  Your car can be fixed/replaced.

We have a closet under our stairs.  I've recently cleaned it out, put a portable battery operated TV, a flashlight, bottles of water and a few pillows in it.  Had some bad weather last week, heard sirens, took the dog and went and sat in the closet.  Fell asleep.  hahaha  Thank goodness nothing bad happened.
Apr 09, 2008 06:14 PM #1
Karen Anne Stone
New Home Hunters of Fort Worth and Tarrant County - Fort Worth, TX
Fort Worth Real Estate
Susan:  So glad you are all safe.  Please know that all of you will be in our thoughts and prayers.  Take care.
Apr 09, 2008 06:25 PM #2
Susan Davis
Austin, TX
Excellence Advocate

Nancy: That is comical! I can see younow, all cuddled up in a ball in the closet! Glad nothing came of it!

Karen: Thank you so much! I always dread this time of year here in Arkansas.



Apr 09, 2008 06:28 PM #3
Donna Henry
Citibrokers, LLC - Spokane, WA
OMG, how scary!  I can't believe the damage that those storms cause....I've been in one when I lived in Arkansas but one was enough to teach me that I didn't want to face off with one of them again!  Now I'm in the Pacific Northwest, Spokane, WA and we barely get thunderstorms here.  My thoughts and prayers are with you all down there!
Apr 09, 2008 07:13 PM #4
Mike Jones
SUNSTREET MORTGAGE, LLC (BK-0907366, NMLS 145171) - Tucson, AZ
Mike Jones NMLS 223495


Thank God you and your family are safe!  The photos are just devastating.

Mike in Tucson

Apr 10, 2008 12:03 AM #5
Susan Davis
Austin, TX
Excellence Advocate

Donna: Yes very scary! I remember when I lived in California, all we had to deal with was earthquakes! Those were pretty scary too!


Mike: Those pictures were from 1996. Yes Thank God we are safe but if you read my blog that I posted the next morning, you will see we had our share of damage from this storm as well. 


Apr 10, 2008 01:51 AM #6
Ray Nellum
Envision Real Estate Group, LLC. - Fort Smith, AR
Fort Smith Real Estate
Susan, storm was not easy to handle.  Our personal storm is in God's great hands as well.  This too will  pass, and you must have faith.
Apr 10, 2008 02:17 PM #7
Thanks Ray. I know God is in control.
Apr 10, 2008 03:40 PM #8
Chris Fisher
Your Virtual Assistant - Concord, CA

That is very scary indeed.  Wow, I'm glad your family safe.

Apr 11, 2008 05:11 AM #9
Amanda Evans
DFW Living - Fort Worth, TX
Real Estate Broker - Fort Worth Texas

Susan, those storms came through DFW last Tuesday and they were something else.  I am glad to hear you are all okay. 

Apr 14, 2008 01:33 PM #10
Deanna Taylor
Keller Williams Realty - Battleground, WA
Wow,  I was just in Ft. Worth visiting family up until the 7th.  Looks like we left just in time.  I live in Vancouver, Washington and we just don't get that severe of weather.  Hope your bruises have heeled.....
Apr 17, 2008 04:31 PM #11


Jun 20, 2008 07:21 PM #12

I lived in Arkansas during the 1996 tornado. I as well saw the ominous dark cloud and all my parents and I could do was pray. I was a senior in HighSchool at SouthSide at the time. It was a very scary night and we were so blessed to have not had more deaths. God was watching out for us that night! I will never forget the atmosphere and the night we spent in the hallway crying and praying. Weren't there 3 verticees off the funnel itself? One hit downtown, the other came over my house over off Zero st. and the other over the Fianna Hills area? I saw the funnel go over my house and thanked God after it had passed that we and our house had been spared. Take care and stay safe!

Oct 17, 2008 02:50 AM #13
Susan, I wish you the best of luck over there in Arkansas. I live in Indiana where we most recently had an EF2 tornado touchdown when my house was nearly destroyed and my car and shed were completely devastated. So I know how you feel. Just hang in there and everything gets better.
Mar 06, 2011 10:04 AM #14
I lived in ban buren the night that tornado hit. I was in JR high. That is a night that will be burned into my memory forever. I live in New York City now. And work as a trader on the NY stock exchange. Things get crazy here sometimes but nothing like that night in van buren Arkansas in 1996.
Oct 09, 2011 10:46 AM #15
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