Marmaduke 'better than ever' eight years after devastating tornado

MARMADUKE, AR (KAIT) - Wednesday marked the eighth anniversary of the tornadoes that devastated Marmaduke and its surrounding areas.

There were no casualties, but the tornadoes either destroyed or severely damaged most homes and businesses.

"My home actually got hit by two [tornadoes] and it came right down the highway and took out both of my businesses," Marmaduke resident Rusty Gibson said.

The tornadoes' aftermath took Gibson about a year and a half to clean up.

"We lived in a trailer for seven months while the house was being restored," Gibson said. "The business was the biggest hurdle for me to jump. The walls being exposed to the elements was an issue, a constant concern because you couldn't lock anything up."

Now eight years later, business is back and booming.

"Business is better than it's ever been," Gibson said.

New businesses, like Dollar General, have also come to the area.

"People have invested in Marmaduke and it is a stronger and better town since the tornado," Gibson said.

"We're just really proud of all of that," City Treasurer Betty Jackson said. "For a small town, we've got a lot going for us right now."

People are also making their way back to Marmaduke.

"We're working very diligently to get everybody moved back to town that we can," Jackson said. "I had a lady who came in yesterday. Her home was destroyed at the time. I met with her last night and she plans to move back to town. She wants a new home built."

Jackson and Gibson said the city's comeback is a true testament to the strength of the community.

"Marmaduke, being a small town, has always been a family-oriented town," Gibson said. "Everybody knows one another and we're always here to help each other out."

"We have come back a long ways to what we were at that point in time," Jackson said. "We feel we've been very blessed."

"The key to it all is just not give up and praise the Lord for strength and patience," Gibson said. "The ballpark and playground here are results of the tornado so there's always good that comes out of a disaster."

Copyright 2014 KAIT. All rights reserved.