Vilonia is still recovering after the horrific EF-4 tornado that devastated it a decade ago
Vilonia, Arkansas – Thursday, nine years ago, will always be remembered in Arkansas as the day that an EF-4 tornado tore through several cities and killed a total of 16 people.
A tornado that struck Ferndale, Mayflower, El Paso, and Vilonia on April 27, 2014, tore, turned, and twisted hundreds of lives.
At the time, Vilonia’s mayor was James Firestone. President Barack Obama visited as a result of the devastating 2014 destruction.
“We had a press conference over at Parkwood Meadows over on the north side of town. That little subdivision had 56 houses and 55 of them were totally destroyed,” Firestone said.
At Parkwood Meadows, all of the houses had vanished, leaving only concrete slabs behind. Over 160 buildings in the city of Vilonia, according to Firestone, were a total loss.
“Even the folks from FEMA said it’s unusual to have more total losses than you do minor and major together,” the former mayor said.
While Vilonia was still healing from an EF-2 tornado in 2011, a twister struck. Firestone recalled thinking, “What could be worse?” as he walked outside to see the damage in 2011.
“I wish I hadn’t asked that question because in 2014 I got an answer,” Firestone said.
Homes at the Parkwood Meadows neighborhood, which the president toured, still have unfilled slabs nine years later.
However, the neighborhood is being rebuilt one brick at a time. Numerous homes there have been rebuilt by Robert Isham of Isham Construction. On April 27, 2014, he claimed that he never imagined seeing what he did.
“You think that you’re going to see some destruction and then you see a complete neighborhood missing,” Isham said.
Over the past nine years, several homes have been constructed, leaving only a few concrete slabs. Isham claims that being a contributing factor to individuals finding light in the shadows is an unequaled sensation.
“From the devastation to the rebuild and people moving back into their homes was quite rewarding,” he says.
Therefore, although it may take some time, that light will eventually shine for those impacted by the March 31st tornado in Central Arkansas and Wynne.
“People will get back on their feet. As long as they have hope and faith it will all come back around,” Isham said.
Since Jonesboro was struck on May 15, 1968, the nearly ten-year-old tornado was the deadliest single tornado to strike Arkansas.
“I know it’s hard, but you have to take it one day at a time and do the best that you can do,” Firestone said.