ARKANSAS TWISTER! - Herculean effort lifts base after EF-2 tornado

  • Published
  • By 19th Airlift Wing
  • Public Affairs
Dark clouds swirled overhead as sirens wailed into the night signaling the impending arrival of a tornado.

Base housing residents had enough advance warning to gather their loved ones into a safe place before the tornado struck Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., April 25, as forecasters from the 19th Operations Support Squadron's weather flight tracked and monitored the menacing twister. Homes were damaged and a few suffered minor injuries, but no lives were lost that night thanks to the early warning sirens.

The National Weather Service has assessed the twister that hit the base as an EF-2 tornado on the Enhanced Fujita Scale (111-135 mph) with a 5-mile path that was 1,000 feet wide. The tornado's path extended from three-quarters of a mile east of Gravel Ridge to 6 miles southwest of Cabot.

The tornado damaged more than 100 on-base housing units and three C-130 Hercules aircraft. It also tore roofs off and damaged many buildings in the base's flight line area. But base Airmen dusted off, picked each other up and immediately launched recovery efforts to take care of the families who were impacted by the storm.

Only three days after the tornado ravaged parts of Little Rock, power had been restored to approximately 80 percent of the base. And the base's mission rolled on with the early April 28 deployment of Airmen and aircraft from the 50th Airlift Squadron -- the first of nearly 20 C-130 Hercules aircraft and 1,000 Airmen slated to leave for operations in Afghanistan and Southwest Asia.

"Our people have done a phenomenal job in taking care of each other and picking up the pieces after this devastating storm," said Col. Mike Minihan, 19th Airlift Wing commander. "I couldn't be more proud of their efforts to pick each other up, dust off and get ready for another round of severe storms. Our Airmen and their families are truly resilient. It's been a Herculean effort by all."

The base is now focused on providing base families whose lives were turned upside down by the storm with the resources and services needed to get back on their feet.