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STORIES FROM THE ROAD


MAY 18, 1996

TORNADO DAMAGE

I had four good days with the local Habitat affiliate in Ft. Smith, AR. I stayed in the office since it was a modified house and there was a folding couch in one of the offices. I was able to check out the tornado damage which was pretty well extensive especially on the town's Northwest side.

The tornado hit the town on April 21st. It was a Catagory 3 tornado which had winds between one hundred fifty and two hundred miles per hour. It skipped around a lot but traveled mostly along the Arkansas River. In just ten minutes, the tornado damaged or destroyed one thousand four hundred houses. Eight hundred were in Ft. Smith while six hundred were in neighboring Van Buren. The Ft. Smith sewer treatment plant was damaged and it looked like it was going to be out of service for around a year. There were also some businesses damaged in the western part of downtown Ft. Smith.

Out of the twenty-two affiliate houses, five had extensive damage. Three of them were finished and lived-in and the other two were under construction. the one house that was twenty percent built was destroyed completely and will have to be rebuilt. I helped the construction supervisor to salvage some of the blown-off vinyl siding so that it could be put up again.




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