Small Northwest Arkansas Town Devastated By Deadly Tornado

Friday, December 31st 2010, 11:17 am
By: News On 6

Tara Vreeland, News On 6

CINCINNATI, Arkansas -- A tornado devastates a small community just across the Oklahoma state line in northwest Arkansas.  

From SkyNews 6 you can see just how wide the path of the tornado was.

Three people were killed and dozens of homes, barns and cars were destroyed. 

As soon as the storm passed, people started trying to pick up the pieces in the small town of Cincinnati, which is just three miles into the state of Arkansas.

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It was a devastating end to the year 2010.

"I was awake. I didn't realize it was a tornado but it was so scary. It was so loud. The house was shaking. It was just really really scary," said tornado survivor Rochelle Lawrence. 

The tornado struck at 6:10 a.m. on December 31, 2010 and ripped through the tiny town of Cincinnati in northwest Arkansas. 

"It just got quiet. It really sounded like a train. It got quiet and still and I opened the door and he said don't open up the door. Our neighbor pushed the door he ran and fell on the ground and said my house my house is gone," said Rochelle Lawrence. 

The Washington County Sherriff's Office says the storm killed three people; 88-year-old Gerald Wilson and his wife, 78-year-old Mamie, were in their trailer home. 

"It's pretty devastating when you lose life and your property. It takes a long time for them to put their lives back together," said Tim Helder, Washington County Sheriff. 

Seventy-eight-year-old Dick Murray was milking cows with his son Mike. Murray was killed. His son was taken to an Arkansas hospital with a broken leg. 

Some the family's dairy cows were killed and others were injured. 

"I guess they were slung when the tornado hit. Their barn went down and they were all scattered out. So we are gathering them and taking them to my barn to bottle feed them," said Murray neighbor Janie Durham. 

SkyNews 6 flew over the damage and reports the tornado's damage path was more than mile long and an eighth of a mile wide. 

"I do know that the Cincinnati Fire Department was totally demolished with all their equipment inside so we've got a lot of damage for such a small community," said Sheriff Tim Helder. 

The people I spoke with say they are still in shock, like they have never seen a storm like this before. But they are willing to pitch in and help each other out.

Officials with Ozark Electric Cooperative say restoration efforts continue as only about 1,000 Ozarks Electric members remain without service.   

High winds and lightning created heavy damage in western Washington County and eastern Adair County.  

Ozarks Electric crews as well as four contract crews continue to rebuild parts of our distribution system that have been damaged.

Members of the Red Cross are helping feed and shelter affected families, which is a total of about 57 people. Volunteers have come from all over to help Cincinnati tornado victims clean up. Donations of food, clothing and blankets from a dozen surrounding communities and businesses poured in immediately. Washington County Sheriff's Office is on night patrols to protect what is left of personal property and belongings.