Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe said on Monday that the tornado that touched down ten miles to the west of Little Rock could be the strongest that the state has encountered. The death toll continues to rise as workers comb through the rubble. The number of dead stands currently at 18. Nine of those deaths occurred in Vilonia, who’s population is only 4,100.
Speaking at a news conference, Beebe said of the search operations, that the search and rescue will continue “until we’re satisfied that everything has been checked and that people who are missing have been found one way or another.” The Arkansas National Guard has been called up to assist in the rescue mission and are currently sifting through the wreckage.
The tornado that touched down at 7 pm on Sunday left a scene of devastation in its wake as it carved its way through several towns in the state. After touching down in Little Rock, it swept through the highway as it moved to the northeast and into Mayflower and on to Vilonia leaving destruction in its path. Areas behind the tornado display trees stripped bare, vehicles mangled beyond recognition and homes flattened to piles of rubble.
Today is only the second day of this multi day threat of tornadoes. Warnings persist as the strong weather system responsible for the spawning of the tornadoes continues to interact with the large area of instability over the region.
President Obama, who is traveling in the Philippines, called the Arkansas governor to offer condolences for those families who lost a loved one and his concern for the individuals still missing. He expressed his gratitude for the heroic first responders working to save lives.
The President directed Administrator Craig Fugate to travel to Arkansas to ensure the appropriate federal resources are being brought to bear to support the state and local efforts. The President asked the Governor to inform him and his team of any additional resources that could be provided to help the communities impacted.