Remembering a night of terror

What was left of a home in the River Plantation subdivision after an April 27, 2014 tornado. (Jeremy Peppas/Maumelle Monitor)

On April 27, 2014, an EF4 tornado swept up into central Arkansas and looked to be going straight to Maumelle.

The highest recorded winds were 190 miles per hour and after the storm was done, 16 people had lost their lives and 193 people were injured.

The National Weather Services report from the storm said, “ a weak tornado touched down in extreme western Pulaski County … and tracked north-northeast.”

That storm that crossed Lake Maumelle and was headed towards Maumelle before it crossed the Arkansas River and went slightly west, missing the city but the River Plantation subdivision in Faulkner County and between Maumelle and Mayflower wasn’t so lucky.

“Here, EF4 damage took place with large, two-story homes being leveled with only piles of debris left on their foundations,” the Weather Service report wrote. “On the northeast side of the subdivision, one person was killed after debris struck the door of her storm shelter and opened it, exposing her to the tornado.”

The storm shelter was later found to be “sub-standard construction” and then a power substation was hit and “sustained major damage.”

Among them was: A recreational vehicle dealership, vehicle repair shop, a millwork company, construction company and a church.

“Members of Lifeline Church on Interstate 40 were sifting through the rubble of their church building for salvageable items,” reads the report in the Maumelle Monitor. “A sign hanging on a broken portion of a wall left standing read ‘PRAY’.”

Two were killed in Mayflower and the tornado then crossed Lake Conway. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission later removed 627 tons of storm debris from the water.

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The tornado then made its way to Vilonia where “dozens of houses were leveled” then on into western White County with damage there and also in Independence and Jackson counties.

The path of destruction was about 80 miles long.

The storm prompted a presidential visit as President Barack Obama made his first trip to the state while he was in office.

President Barack Obama delivers a statement regarding the recent tornadoes and severe storms in central Arkansas, in Vilonia, May 7, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The April 27 tornado occurred two days after the third anniversary of a 2011 tornado that killed four people and leveled parts of Vilonia.

After the storm Bill Lawson wrote in the Monitor that, “14 off-duty Maumelle police officers came to work without being called” while a “dozen Maumelle firefighters went to Mayflower where they searched for victims going door to door, treated injured victims, dug people out of automobiles and structures collapsed on top of them, turned off broken gas lines and removed dangers like fallen power lines and other debris from critical roadways and other areas. … Hundreds of volunteers from Maumelle churches and other organizations also volunteered.”

Neal Moore is taking the week off. This is a portion of his column that ran the week after the tornado hit on April 27.

MOORE ON MAUMELLE:  After a storm tears us apart, communities pull together

No matter what the circumstances, communities will pull together in the face of adversity and they certainly are doing that now in nearby subdivision Plantation Acres, neighboring city Mayflower and Vilonia, just up the road.

As many Maumellians did on that awful Sunday night, I anxiously wandered around my yard and front porch looking for some clue to the extent of the danger to my family and home. We lost power so we were listening to the maddening drone of the NOAA computerized radio broadcast before I finally found KATV's audio on my radio.

In retrospect, none of us had any idea that lives were being taken, over 300 homes were being destroyed, businesses were being leveled and families were changed forever.

I have not visited any of the areas or even driven the Interstate, but the pictures are everywhere and started coming in just after the deadly twister tore through our peaceful communities.

I'm sure everyone knows someone who was affected. And I know that hundreds of Maumelle citizens, our police and fire departments all went to work doing what they could. They still are. It is my understanding that the greatest need right now is gift cards so people can get what they need. Many times, old clothing is not wanted and will eventually be discarded.

One of the most moving things I saw were photos of the devastation with posted signs stating their resolve to stand strong through this incomprehensible damage with phrases like "Arkansas Strong."

A few people put up signs with the words, "I'll praise You in the storm." That phrase is from a popular song by the Christian group, Casting Crowns. Someone used the song and cobbled together a rough video using photos from the carnage. I'll leave you with the chorus:

And I'll praise You in this storm

And I will lift my hands

For You are who You are

No matter where I am

And every tear I've cried

You hold in Your hand

You never left my side

And though my heart is torn

I will praise You in this storm

No one knows the answers as to why but we do know there can be strength in the storm. Maintaining faith in times like these can be difficult. My prayer is that those who seek refuge will find it.