MAYFLOWER — Mayflower’s Dam Road reminded 90-year-old “Mac” McKinney of World War II, he said Monday as he walked along surveying the damage on the path of a deadly tornado that swept through Faulkner County the night before, striking heavily in his hometown and in Vilonia.
Similar scenes were at River Plantation along the Arkansas River, located southwest of the heart of Mayflower.
Two of the 11 fatalities confirmed Monday by Faulkner County Coroner Patrick Moore were reported to have occurred in the two areas.
A third in Mayflower was reported at Fortner Road, just off of State Highway 365, which runs through the city.
Among Dam Road residents who are now without homes was Louie Short.
Short was speaking with neighbors and friends Monday on his street, standing in the ditch in front of what was his residence, but the structure was a pile.
Lake Conway is in the neighborhood’s backyard.
He recounted the events of the night before, saying he had taken shelter between his gun safe and a deep freeze, with a pillow placed over his head.
A bandage on his forearm was blood-soaked, but he said he had already been to the hospital.
“The safe of guns went over my head and into the lake,” said Short. “Rocks came down and got my arm. This was my third (tornado), but I never had one like this.”
Short told another neighbor, Darwin Henry, who also lost his home, that he had been on the telephone with Robert Oliver, who died in the storm, two minutes before the tornado hit.
Short said he told Oliver to take cover, and he understood Oliver was going to get to a stairwell.
What remained of Oliver’s home was its foundation and some timber, and two vehicles were still parked side-by-side in a location neighbors said was the garage.
Henry said he told Oliver before Sunday that if a dangerous storm were to hit the area, he should come to his basement.
“That’s how it is, on this side of the lake we pull together,” Henry said.
Henry pointed to his lot and said he only had a post left, and the light fixture that sat on top was missing.
Two couples met at cross streets in River Plantation six miles from Dam Road and talked of their own experiences.
A woman who did not want to be named said she and her neighbors at the southeast corner of the development were fairing better, having suffered damage that was much less severe than that of others in the neighborhood.
She said she hid under stairs, and when the tornado hit, “for that moment, you thought the whole house was coming down.”
The windows on her home “blew out,” items on the walls were taken off, and her deck furniture was gone.
“We’re thankful, seeing this,” she said of the scene.
Storm damage is not confined to River Plantation and Dam Road, and another heavy hit area is on White City Road in Mayflower.
Areas along Highway 365 near Lumber 1 were heavily damaged, and homes and businesses were lost. Side streets in Mayflower were blocked by downed trees and power lines, and emergency crews stopped traffic from passing on Highway 365, and Interstate 40 at Mayflower was closed for a time in both directions Sunday. When the main roads opened, traffic was at a crawl.
Crews worked Monday to make roads passable, but roads are still blocked in heavily damaged areas as police are standing guard.
The American Red Cross has three shelters open, two in Vilonia and one in Mayflower.
Mayflower Middle School was opened as a shelter, and the location is also being used as a drop off point for donations.
Food is being served, electricity has been restored, and Verizon was on hand Monday with a mobile charging station for cell phones.
A command center for officials was established at Mayflower City Hall.
A curfew from 7 p.m. Monday to 7 a.m. Tuesday was put in place in Mayflower and Vilonia.
(Staff writer Courtney Spradlin can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 505-1236, or on Twitter @Courtneyism. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit.)