As tornadoes ripped through Oklahoma on Sunday and Monday, Conway Fire Chief Bart Castleberry reminds Conway residents that the destruction seen there could happen here as well, and residents have to be prepared to help each other.
Castleberry pointed out that if a weather system, such as the one that destroyed much of Moore, Okla., were to hit three city blocks in Conway, the resources used by local emergency departments would be overwhelmed immediately.
"My heart goes out to everyone there," Castleberry said. "To see the extensive damage that took place shows that it was the worst-case scenario."
Much of that weather moved into Arkansas Monday night and today, but no tornadoes of that magnitude have been tracked. However, Castleberry said the incident shows that residents need to be prepared to help each other because in a "worst-case scenario," emergency responders may not be able to help everyone as soon as possible.
Castleberry said that the department’s web site, www.conwayfd.com, will provide instant updates when the most severe weather is occurring. A list of streets that are shut down because of flooding, the second a tornado is seen as touching down and when all severe weather has cleared the area.
"We will get many calls when the sirens stop blaring to find out if the area is clear," he said. "This will tell everyone as soon as that happens."
A monstrous tornado at least a half-mile wide roared through the Oklahoma City suburbs Monday, flattening entire neighborhoods with winds up to 200 mph, setting buildings on fire and landing a direct blow on an elementary school. At least 37 people were reported killed.
The storm laid waste to scores of buildings in Moore, south of the city. Block after block of the community lay in ruins. Homes were crushed into piles of broken wood. Cars and trucks were left crumpled on the roadside.
The National Weather Service issued an initial finding that the tornado was an EF-4 on the enhanced Fujita scale, the second most-powerful type of twister.
Authorities expected the death toll to rise as emergency crews moved deeper into the hardest-hit areas. At least 60 people were reported hurt, including more than a dozen children.
Rescuers mounted a desperate rescue effort at the school, pulling children from heaps of debris and carrying them to a triage center.
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin deployed 80 National Guard members to assist with search-and-rescue operations and activated extra highway patrol officers.
Faulkner County knows its share of grief from tornadoes as area of Vilonia were destroyed two years ago from tornadoes and severe storms.
Castleberry said that a good way for everyone to be prepared is to attend a CERT program class given by the Faulkner County Emergency Services Department. The program teaches citizens how to survive and help others when weather such as tornadoes and other storms hit the area.
"That’s what it’s going to take to make sure everyone gets through something like this," Castleberry said. "It takes people helping themselves and their neighbors. We will always be there to do everything we can, but in a situation like the one in Oklahoma, it willl take all of us working together."