Mississippi County suffers damage with tornado

(Source: KAIT-TV)
(Source: KAIT-TV)

MISSISSIPPI COUNTY, AR (KAIT) - The tornado that rolled through parts of Region 8 Saturday night left a path of destruction in parts of Mississippi County.

Osceola Mayor Dickie Kennemore said the majority of the major damage to hit them was on West Keiser Avenue.

"I know we didn't have this extensive damage," Mayor Kennemore said. "I think we had a pecan tree down crossing the road. Get some chainsaws and cut that down and push it out of the road. So long as we get the road open, it can wait a couple of days. As far as the damage at the motel, I don't think there's anything we are going to be able to do there. It's strung out all over the field. It's demolished. They will tear it down, I would suspect."

Minister of Youth and Music at First Baptist Church in Osceola, Chris Neaville, said the tornado also went past their church, but they didn't get a lot of damage.

"With the winds and the tornado last night," Neaville said. "We had our steeple blown over, the top part of it. Luckily, the steeple is hollow. Which means there are shingles underneath there, so there was no structural damage to our roof. Luckily there is also no structural damage to the building itself or the windows. We looked at it and made sure everything was okay."

Roof damage was seen at the Systex building just down the road.

Many Osceola residents, along with people from all over Region 8, were seen in Keiser Sunday morning.

"This first thing that I did," Minister Neaville said. "Was to get on the First Baptist Church Keiser Facebook page and see if everyone was alright and if they needed anything. I didn't want to bombard them with phone calls, but wanted to know they were okay and if they needed help. Todd posted on there everything was okay and some pictures of the damage. But there were no casualties or injuries and were so blessed about that. We were very worried about Todd and his community. Because he is a great foundation. They have a great church over there and he does a lot of great things to lead that community. So, we were happy he was okay along with his congregation and the city."

Pastor Todd Vinson of First Baptist Church in Keiser said they had a variety of damage throughout Keiser.

"We're seeing anywhere from minimal damage to maximum damage to houses," Pastor Vinson said. "Some have roofs completely gone. Others just got beat up by the debris flying through the air, windows knocked out, shingles are gone, porches are gone. And so, really it's just a variety. It almost looked like it hopped through Keiser."

Kennemore said he first learned of the damage Keiser saw during Sunday service.

"I had heard about it this morning at church and social media," Mayor Kennemore said. "But until I came out here I didn't realize the extent of the damage. So, as soon as we can get some equipment out here we're going to go to work for Keiser."

"The Corner Store was demolished," Vinson said. "It was the only store in town, gas station and all. Our public library, which was a serious article for everyone here, was damaged badly. Most of the other damage is homes. There aren't a lot of businesses in town. But a lot of homes. So, we're just trying to work through that. Clean things up and make sure everything is safe. They're getting the power back on slowly but surely. Power is back on at the church. But Entergy has been working around the clock to get everybody back going."

Osceola resident Sara Creecy said she was hurt to see what had happened to her friends and family in Keiser.

"It broke my heart. It's really, really devastating. There's no power. There's houses with no roofs. The library is just destroyed. Our kids come here and participate in activities. It broke my heart."

Director Mississippi County Library Lowell Walters said the library received major damage.

"The outside exterior wall fell into the children's area," Walters said. "Then apparently a draft went through the rafters and it blew out the opposite wall to the exterior. So, we have a fair amount of structural damage."

However, Walters said most of the library's collection and computers seemed to be in good shape thanks to the rain ending shortly after the roof damage.

A bus from Rivercrest pulled in and students loaded the library's books aboard it where they'll wait at another library until they figure out what to do about the one in Keiser.

Mayor Kennemore said no matter what, they're going to help their neighbors get through this.

"So, we're going to bring at least a crew out here," Kennemore said. "We may have to keep a crew for a while in Osceola, but I'm going to go up there and assess that to see if we can afford it. We can afford it! We're gonna afford it because they're in worse shape than we are out here. Whether we can send all of our equipment or not, I'm gotta go decide that. But when we can, we're going to send it all out here and help these people."

"It's been amazing this morning," Pastor Vinson said. "We've had people volunteering. We've had supplies come from all over. So, we have a lot of stuff coming in. We need more bodies. The more bodies we have to help the quicker we can get things done. There's a lot of people in their homes that we don't know about yet who are older that can't get out or they're not able to do it. So, we'll be assessing those things. We've got ladies right now going door to door and seeing who needs help. We've got teams coming in this afternoon."

15-year-old Bailey Hudson lives in Keiser with her family.

"We're out here cleaning up the aftermath of the tornado," Hudson said. "It is devastating to see this hometown that I've grown up in just destroyed. I think it's awesome there are people out here volunteering and helping clean up the community. Just seeing the community come together is awesome."

Neaville said he'll soon be in Keiser with friends to try and help.

"More than likely, we will have some of our own people going over there," Neaville said. "When things like this happen, I like to apply it to my youth. So, I will be in contact with Todd and will grab some of my youth members and go over there and help them out. If they need painting, laying brick, whatever it is we're going to do anything we can to help. Whatever they ask, we're going to do our best to try and help them out."

"We've had local people bringing water and snacks and things of that nature," Pastor Vinson said. "The Mission from Blytheville brought all kinds of meals down for anybody that needed. We had folks that brought shovels and rakes from Wal Mart and cleaning supplies. We've got a man right here from Caraway cooking hot dogs for everybody."

Vinson said they want to help all their citizens get through this.

"So, anybody that needs meals," Vinson said. "Anybody that needs anything, if we don't have it here we'll go get it for you."

To learn how you can help, contact the Keiser City Hall at (870) 526-2300.

Any Keiser residents in need of help should contact Vinson at the First Baptist Church.

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