The small town if Vilonia, Arkansas is in shambles after one of more than two dozen tornadoes throughout the South and Midwest tore through the town Sunday.
Here’s what you need to know about the town and the destruction:
1. Mayflower & Vilonia Were Hardest Hit
More than 30 tornadoes rocked communities in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Iowa, but the towns of Mayflower and Vilonia in Arkansas’ Faulkner County felt the brunt of the storm’s wrath. The death toll in Faulker County is at least 10, according to NBC.
Vilonia’s population was just over 3,800 as measured by the 2010 Census.
The storm touched down in Vilonia at about 7 p.m. local time on Sunday, April 27, destroying buildings, flipping over cars and trucks and leaving a path of destruction that included the bell from the United Methodist Church being flung at least 75 yards, according to Matthew Carroll of KATV.
— Matthew Carroll (@MatthewMGC) April 28, 2014
2. At Least 6 People Were Killed in Vilonia
Vilonia Police Chief Brad McNew said in an interview on NBC’s Today Show Monday morning (embedded above) that at least six people in the town were killed. The death toll could rise as rescue workers continue to search for victims and survivors.
McNew said the death toll would almost certainly have been higher had warnings not gone out promptly.
“It did work,” he said. “If you see the destruction that’s here, even though we lost some lives, many lives were saved because of the storm warnings.”
The Facebook post above from Greg Johnson of TornadoHunter.com describes the destruction.
3. Vilonia Was Hit by a Tornado in 2011
This is the second violent tornado to hit Vilonia since 2011. This image is from 2011. pic.twitter.com/IjLA75QlVB
— Smitty (@KangCotton) April 28, 2014
Four people were killed in Vilonia when tornadoes tore through Arkansas in 2011, almost exactly three years before the storms that touched down Sunday.
Here’s how The New York Times described the destruction from that storm:
Vilonia is essentially one street, and along both sides on Tuesday afternoon lay snapped trees, unlaced power lines and gutted homes. National Guardsmen and insurance agents rode through the town, which smelled of sawdust and dampness and resonated with the noise of chainsaws and generators. Residents stood in piles of wreckage looking at the structures somehow both strange and familiar that they once called home.
4. Interstate 40 Is Strewn With Overturned & Mangled Vehicles
The Weather Channel reports that the tornado that plowed through Mayflower and Vilonia reached a width of one-half mile:
The tornado touched down Sunday about 10 miles west of Little Rock at around 7 p.m., then carved an 80-mile path of destruction as it passed through or near several suburbs north of the state capital, including Vilonia. It grew to be a half-mile wide and remained on the ground for much of that route, authorities said.
How strong were these tornadic winds? Three big RVs wrapped around a twisted I-40 billboard in Mayflower, AR. pic.twitter.com/5Rx5fPuW9k
— Mike Seidel (@mikeseidel) April 28, 2014
I-40, a major artery in the area, was crowded with evening traffic when the tornado struck around 7 p.m. local time. Cars and even big rigs were toppled and tossed. Billboards were shredded. And today, traffic remains snarled by the aftermath.
I-40 east is backed up all the exit 127 from mayflower pic.twitter.com/DrUvZcchGD
— BMHill (@BMHill) April 28, 2014
5. Here’s How You Can Help
For anyone looking to make a monetary donation, or for those in the area looking to volunteer, Kim Herrington at TheMadeThing has compiled a lengthly list of organizations accepting donations and volunteers.
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