Tornado Hits 1 Arkansas Street Particularly Hard

by Andrew DeMillo and Jim Salter  on Tuesday, Apr. 29, 2014 7:28 am  

An aerial view of tornado damage in Mayflower, by THV 11 News photographer Kenny Allison. The National Weather Service estimates that the tornado that hit Vilonia and Mayflower was probably at least an EF3 on the 0-to-5 EF scale, which means winds greater than 136 mph. (Photo by Kenny Allison/THV 11 News)

Lorelei suffered a shoulder injury and was hospitalized. Suzanne Wassom was hospitalized with a concussion, her aunt, Sherry Madden, said.

Dan Wassom's final act of heroism didn't surprise relatives.

"Dan always put his family first," Arnett said, wiping away tears.

Madden said the family had just returned home from church, where the girls were fighting over who got to sit next to dad.

"He was the best dad," Madden said.

A few houses down, neighbors Deanna Noble, 32, and Regina Chavez, 31, couldn't find their trucks. Their homes were shredded and their vehicles were missing, perhaps blown hundreds of yards away.

Both tried clicking their truck remotes to see if they heard a distant honk. Nothing.

Officials said the death toll could have been worse if residents hadn't piled into underground storm shelters, safe rooms and fortified community shelters after listening to forecasts on TV and radio, getting cellphone alerts or calls or texts from loved ones, and hearing sirens blare through their neighborhoods.

Maggie Caro rushed with her husband and two children to a community shelter at a Vilonia school, where they were among the last to get inside the fortified gym before the doors were shut.

"They were screaming, 'Run! Run! It's coming!'" Caro recalled.

Kimber Standridge and a friend had gathered up seven children they were watching and sped through the streets, getting to the shelter just minutes before the twister hit.

"When they shut the doors, we knew it was on us," Standridge said. "Everybody hunkered down. There were a lot of people doing prayer circles, holding hands and praying."



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