Survivor recalls strongest tornado in AR history

MCCRORY, AR (KAIT)- An elderly woman in McCrory survived the 1929 tornado that hit the Pleasant Valley community north of Swifton.

Eighty-five years ago a F5 tornado struck northern Jackson County leaving 23 dead and over 59 people injured. The 1929 tornado began in Independence County about 3 miles south of Batesville. It reached its maximum intensity around the Pleasant Valley community north of Swifton.

"Some was crying some were praying and some were screaming and hollering, it was a lot of racket going on," said survivor, Lucille Burkett. 

Burkett was only 3-years-old when the 1929 tornado struck northern Jackson County. But there are some details she will never forget about that day.

"It was a trying time," she said. "When it came it killed my grandmother."

When Burkett and her family heard a tornado coming, they and 8 others took cover at the Nicholson house in Swifton.

"When it takes one room we would all run to the other room," Burkett told Region 8 News. "Mother had me in her arms and my daddy had my sister in his arms and I don't know if mother held me tighter then he did but I was still in her arms when the storm was over with but my sister was blown out of my daddy's arms."

Twenty-three people were killed that day and at least 59 others were injured.

"We were spared, we were lucky," Burkett said. "It's a wonder well it like to got my sister. The ambulances couldn't get in there, it was the next day before they could get the injured and take them to the hospital in Newport."

And when they finally made it back to their home, there was nothing left.

"Our home, it had one floor of one room left, I believe my mother said it was the living room," she said. 

Burkett's sister and mother had to stay in the hospital for 17 days. She said every time they moved to another home, they made sure they were prepared.

"The first thing we'd do when we'd get settled in a house is my daddy would build a storm shelter," Burkett said. 

But she will never shake the feeling when she hears a tornado is in the forecast.

"We were so afraid of storms and we went a million times in the storm shelter because if it thundered  mother grabbed us and took us to the storm shelter," she said. 

Burkett said after that day their lives were centered around the weather. Burkett is now 89- years-old and lives in McCrory at the Woodruff County Health Center. 

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