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COVER


STORY


The EF4 tornado that hit Arkansas on April 27 beat a 24-mile path of destruction from western Pulaski County to Faulkner County and on to White County. After the Storm Recovery efforts have been fueled by cooperation among many jurisdictions.


Story by Kitty Chism Photography by angie davis For County Lines


Dodson bolted from the table, jumped into his white pickup and sped across town to the county Emergency Operations Center, his go-to bag in hand and satellite radio blaring. He reached the menacing gate of the wedged-into-a-cliff, state-of-the-art center off Hogan Lane just minutes after Sheila McGhee, his director of Emergency Services. Ten he took a seat with her crisis team around the conference table, their voices low, their laptops glowing, their eyes fixed alternately on a big-screened tele- vision and giant wall map as they plotted the path of this storm with the help of radar, news reports and calls from expert storm trackers. It was April 27, 2014. Te origin of this powerful squall, Arkansas’ worst in a half-century, was a polar front that had plunged down the Rocky Mountains, fueling a half-mile wide, rotating super-cell that gath- ered speed as it traveled. It touched ground a little after 7 p.m. Ten it beat a 24-mile path of destruction from Ferndale to Vilonia.


F 30


aulkner County Judge Allen Dodson was enjoying Sunday dinner with his mom and siblings when he heard the first foreboding alerts on his cell phone. Te threatening storm moving in from the west was developing tornado strength.


“Te real trigger for our response, after we knew for sure that the tor- nado had touched down, was the call from [Mayflower Fire Chief] Carl Rossini telling us what he saw happening,” McGhee said. Rossini had been standing in the parking lot behind Mayflower’s


City Hall, watching the shadowy swirl of the angriest storm he had ever seen, snapping power lines, mangling trees and scrubbing houses right off their slabs. Te sight was riveting until it became terrifyingly clear that the debris-spewing tempest was headed straight for him and the City Hall safe room, where he had encouraged a dozen city workers and friends to take cover.


Ten, just as the funnel got within a few thousand yards of him, it made a sharp turn northeast across the interstate. He actually saw it pivot, heard it roar into the RV dealership on the other side of the high- way and felt its deadly force as it blew out windows and sheared off roofs of everything it did not demolish. By then Rossini was set to turn his office into a mini command center for local search, rescue and medical responders, volunteers and road department crews. By the time he saw the funnel pivot, he was already


COUNTY LINES, SUMMER 2014


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