‘You still didn’t think you were about to get hit by a tornado:’ Survivors recall moment tornado hit home

Updated: Mar. 28, 2021 at 4:50 PM CDT
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JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - One of the last Jonesboro neighborhoods to take a direct hit from the March 28, 2020 tornado was Bridger Place.

That is where newlyweds Ben and Diane Bizzle moved, just months before the tornado hit.

The newlyweds said it was just a normal weekend morning.

“It was a regular Saturday,” Ben said. “It’s sunny outside and a few clouds. It continued to get cloudier as the day went on.”

Ben knew that storms were in the forecast that day.

“But, you know, this is the south and it was springtime, so thunderstorms are common,” Ben said.

But, Diane was not as aware of the incoming storms.

“I wasn’t paying any attention to the weather at all, like I was doing my puzzle,” Diane said.

At first, the couple was not that overly concerned about the incoming weather.

“You know, having grown up all my life in the south, having seen tornadoes before, been through plenty of severe thunderstorms, you get accustomed to them,” Ben said.

But, a short time later, the alerts started coming to their phones.

“That’s when we turned on the weather,” Diane said.

Ben went outside and look at the storm, but a short time later, Diane saw the tornado develop over Jonesboro live on TV.

Massive tornado tracks through Jonesboro, Ark. area Saturday afternoon
Massive tornado tracks through Jonesboro, Ark. area Saturday afternoon(KAIT)

“That’s when I freaked out,” Diane said.

The couple turned up the television and ran to the bathroom with their four dogs.

“You still didn’t think you were about to get hit by a tornado,” Ben said.

But then they started hearing the debris fall and their home comes apart.

“That’s where I don’t remember,” Diane said. “The only thing I remember is, at one point, I know like the windows and stuff broke, and I felt like a pressure change, like the wind coming in underneath the door, but that is really all I remember from when it hit our house.”

Diane said during that time, she was shielding the dogs and Ben was shielding her.

Then, just like that, it was over.

“Everything just settled down again and got quiet, and we opened the bathroom door, and we could see daylight,” Ben said.

Tornado damage to Diane and Ben Bizzle's home on March 28, 2020
Tornado damage to Diane and Ben Bizzle's home on March 28, 2020(Diane Bizzle)

Their house was destroyed by the storm, and when they called family and friends, at first, they did not believe they had been hit by the storm.

“I’m kind of a jokester so people were like ‘Oh Ben, you’re’ no, I’m not kidding. We lost the house,” Ben said.

The family said the community rallied around each other after the storm.

“There were local churches and so forth out making sure that the people doing the cleanup had plenty of food and water and so there was a very communal spirit as far as everyone working together,” Ben said.

The newlyweds were then left without a home and the rebuilding process began.

Drone image of tornado damage at Bridger Place on March 28, 2020.
Drone image of tornado damage at Bridger Place on March 28, 2020.(Jonesboro Police Department)

“We had to rebuild from the ground up, so the fun aspect was customizing it to what we wanted,” Diane said.

However, rebuilding in a pandemic caused some challenges.

“The hard part was just the amount of time it took.”

All this while Diane isolated due to COVID-19.

“Normally when people are building a house, they’ve like spent time, you know, thinking about everything beforehand, and making decisions beforehand,” Diane said.

One year after moving into the house for the first time, they moved back into their newly rebuilt home.

And as we move into tornado season, the hope is that tornadoes avoid this area this year.

“We don’t need any tornadoes and Jonesboro does not need any more tornadoes. We’ve suffered so much,” Diane said.

Many of the homes, like the Bizzles, have been rebuilt in the Bridger Place neighborhood, and others are in the rebuilding process. Just a sign that life continues to return to normal in Bridger Place.

To see other stories featured in KAIT’s special, “The Jonesboro Tornado: One Year Later,” click here.

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