The Worst Scene Imaginable
Written by The Tornado Hunters
This past week marked the beginning of chasing season for Team Tornado Hunter. The first day was a blue-sky bust in Nebraska. The next day, Sunday April 27 however was an incredible roller coaster.
We began the day in Nebraska, headed into Missouri. At this point, the Storm Prediction Centre upgraded the watch area in Arkansas to a High Risk for Tornadoes and also issued what is referred to as a PDS (Particularly Dangerous Situation). I had been trying to avoid chasing in Arkansas, as this is an area that is very hard to chase in due to hills, giant trees, winding roads and generally low visibility. But here we were at a cross road and we took it! Off to Arkansas we went, and as we arrived in the Little Rock metroplex radar indicated that a large tornado was forming within just a few miles of our location.
We headed to our intercept point and came upon a half mile wide monster tornado that was so large we actually thought it was a large cloud until we got close enough to tell that it was moving way to fast and full of debris. For the next hour and a half we chased this monster on its 128km damage path until it eventually hit the small town of Vilonia Arkansas. This is where our chase ended and our night began.
Imagine, all of these homes and trees and vehicles destroyed, hundreds of them in complete darkness.
The searchers were calling out to survivors, it was eerie. My driver Ricky and I continued searching and after about a half hour we heard a reply from beneath a pile of rubble. We quickly called out for more searchers and within minutes we had a dozen people pulling a collapsed brick wall and large amounts of other structural debris off the pile. After 20 minutes we finally had the cellar door freed and 3 families emerged from their dark cocoon. I cannot imagine how terrifying their ordeal must have been.
We stayed on site for the next 4 hours ferrying survivors and doctors and pets to the staging area set up at the local high school. Our night finally ended just before sunrise with a rum and coke.“We were one of the first vehicles on the scene and we couldn’t believe what we were seeing. It was a town devastated and broken.”