Shortly after 7:30 p.m. Monday night, Vilonia residents began the cleanup of the downtown area that officials said was “wiped out” just minutes prior.
“It’s just a mess here,” said Mayor James Firestone. “There are trees and power lines down everywhere. Highway 64 is closed. An 18-wheeler is turned over. Only emergency vehicles are being let in. And, we need them.”
Houses and businesses are gone, cars are turned over and the city is in the dark, he added.
“Keith’s Valero is gone from what I have heard,” Firestone said.
Also, he said, he had heard reports that some people in Rocky Point were trapped in a storm cellar. Another family was trapped in a mobile home.
In Black Oak, he said, there were reports that one family was trapped in a mobile home. He said, “as far as he knew” there have been no fatalities. However, he said, he has heard an 18 year old girl has received injuries. Police and fire department officials are out surveying the damage in the darkness.
“As bad as it is, we are lucky,” he said. “We are very lucky. It could have been a lot worse with a lot of lives lost.”
Resident Billy Mitchell, who lives in the downtown area, described the town as “ wiped out.” His family was in a storm shelter when it hit.
“I have been in that storm cellar man times since 1964,” he said. “I have never heard anything like I heard tonight. There was wind and hail. It was scary now."
Mitchell, who is an official with the Senior Citizens Center, said it has been opened as a shelter. Yet, due to downed power lines, he was not able to make it to open it.
“There is a generator there though and there’s power so everyone can go there,” he added.
Other residents reported that Harp’s Grocery Store and the Nazarene Church have also been destroyed.
One housing area that received major damage was Quail Hollow. A resident of the area Sharon Messer said her house has received roof damage, trees were downed and storage buildings have been blown away.
“It didn’t sound like a big freight train—that is what I’ve always heard a tornado sounds like,” she said. “All I could hear was glass breaking.”
Windows were blown out of her house and between the panes, she said, the frames are twisted. Outside, she described an area with many other houses with major damage. Yet, she said, her house wasn’t damaged as bad as others in the area.
"It is just a mess," she said.