Highland continues to recover after record-breaking tornado

Highland continues to recover after record-breaking tornado
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)
Deanna Strobble (Source: KAIT)
Deanna Strobble (Source: KAIT)

HIGHLAND, AR (KAIT) - Ten years ago Monday, the longest-tracked tornado in Arkansas history affected communities in western Region 8.

Fourteen people died during the Super Tuesday 2008 tornado outbreak that struck communities in Izard, Sharp, and Stone counties.

Highland Mayor Russ Truitt said the rebuilding process has been a slow process.

The EF-4 tornado traveled over 120 miles from Yell County to Sharp County.

The storm devastated the community, destroyed the fire department, and leveled several businesses along Highway 412.

Truitt said with help from other communities--including equipment and monetary donations--along with FEMA grants, they were able to build a new fire station.

While some businesses could not afford to rebuild, some simply chose not to.

"As you can see, driving down our main street we still have empty slabs that we would love to have businesses put back on," Truitt said. "Slowly but surely we are building back up. We've had several over the past few years. We've had several new businesses come in with nice new buildings."

Truitt said that means less revenue for Highland and ten years later, sales tax revenue is still not as high as it was before the tornado.

Highland residents remember the tornado outbreak like it was yesterday.

"That day at school it was very warm and our school called off the basketball games for that night, and Highland never called off basketball games, so I was thinking that is the craziest thing I've ever heard of," Deanna Strobble, Highland resident said. "Why would they call the basketball game off? Cause I've never been scared of storms."

Stubble was about to head to the hospital to visit her father.

"So I turned on the news, of course, it was KAIT and they were talking about the weather and they were talking about, you know, it was bad," Strobble said.

Her husband came home and saw the tornado in their backyard. That was when the couple took cover in a closet.

"It was just like everybody says, a train, it sounded like a train. And you could hear everything flying in the living room." Strobble said the tornado lasted about 30 seconds, but said it felt much longer.

The Strobbles stayed in the closet for about five more minutes before a neighbor came and helped them out of the house.

"Then we just kinda went around the neighborhood to see other people if they were ok," Strobble said.

Strobble said even though the town was devastated, everyone was willing to help each other out.

"And then it makes you more aware of where something like that happens for you to go help other people," Strobble said.

Just in the past few years, Highland added a storm warning system, a siren located at the fire station.

Truitt said he believes everyone here takes those warnings more seriously.

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