January 21, 1999…We will always remember


That was a scary day. I remember it like a film playing over and over in my head. That was the day that several tornadoes struck within miles of my home. Talk about being a scared to death little 5th grader. I was at home with my mom and brothers. My dad had gone to the sale at Batesviile. The storms started about 4, not long after I got off the bus from school. Before we knew it Ed Buckner on channel 11 was telling us that there were possible tornadoes on all sides of us. It lasted til 8 or 9 that night. My mom was scared to death cause my dad wasnt there. The power had gone out, she had a couch turned upside down in the corner of the basement and us kids were in there. She was on the phone trying to get my dad to come home, but he couldnt because of all the storms between there and home. We listened to the radio and they were talking about tornadoes in Beebe, McRae, Center Hill, Sunnydale, and Pleasant Plains all towns just miles from us in every direction. After I heard that a storm had blown straight through the towns of McRae and Beebe I was kinda worried about everyone around there cause that was were I went to school and church. The next day we were of course out of school. So I went to town with my dad and Elvin, a guy that worked with us, to check on Elvin’s mom who lived in town. The national guard soldiers had to check our address and make sure we had relatives in town, before they would even let us cross the overpass 2 miles from McRae. That was a scary sight that awaited us. Everything in McRae was gone. A pile of bricks and rubble. It started with the trailer park and went right along the tracks. The trailer park was completely wiped away, the houses and community center, and post office were all gone. Even the fire department was crushed. The bank and gas station were the only things left besides one brick house that seemed barely touched. All the old houses in the path were utterly destroyed. Our church building was fine except a piece of plywood that had slammed into the side and pushed the whole wall in a couple inches. I saw power lines down everywhere and even saw someone’s Aladdin VHS tape in the ditch along with all sorts of shredded trash, paper, and wood. Talk about a scary sight.
Beebe down the road, a larger town, was just as scathed. There was a ball game in the gym that night but the superintendent went with his gut feeling and sent everyone home at halftime. The gym was completely destroyed along with heavy damage to much of the rest of the school. The tornado went through downtown Beebe tearing up many of the houses there just as it later would do in McRae. It went through a section of nicer houses in Beebe where there was a grandmother with her grandson in her arms. They were found later, the baby was the son of the Transportation man at our school, a very close friend that always made everyone laugh. He was a firefighter and his wife on the ambulance, so they had left their son with the grandmother. It was a sad occasion for everyone.
I will forever remember those scenes, as will everyone else that was affected. I just thought that I needed to take a moment to remember all those people, this being 10 years down the road. Never underestimate the power of a storm.

This is the weather report with pictures from the nws.
http://www.srh.noaa.gov/lzk/html/tor012199.htm

What was left of the post office in McRae

A shot of Downtown McRae

The paths of the tornadoes across Central Arkansas

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