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Continued: Arkansas residents rush to community shelters, storm cellars as tornado kills at least 15

  • Article by: ANDREW DEMILLO , Associated Press
  • Last update: April 28, 2014 - 11:15 PM

Three people died when the tornado tore a Paron home down to the foundation. Emily Tittle, 17, said her family took shelter under the stairs of their two-story home before the twister ripped the walls away. She said her father, Rob Tittle; 20-year-old sister Tori and 14-year-old sister Rebekah were killed, and her six other siblings were taken to hospitals.

In Vilonia, Raella Faulkner and Bobby McElroy picked through their demolished home, searching for family photos and a bow-and-arrow kit belonging to McElroy's son. The two had taken refuge from the storm in an underground storm shelter about 10 feet from their home.

"We were going to get married. Now I guess we'll have to wait," McElroy said.

Homes in the South are frequently built on concrete slabs, without basements. Slabs are cheaper and easier, and the need to protect pipes from freezing by putting them below ground is not as great as it is in the North.

For storm shelters, many people in the South and other parts of Tornado Alley in the nation's midsection have holes dug into the sides of hills with a door attached to the front. But these tend to be in older homes.

Hall Sellers, 53, was in the Vilonia home he built a decade ago when the warnings grew more intense. He had been through plenty of storms, including the twister three years ago that damaged the house, but this time he and his wife scrambled across the street to another home that he owns, an older one with an old-fashioned storm cellar.

"I don't know," Sellers said. "I don't usually go to the cellar, but this just felt right this time."

A neighbor wasn't so lucky. Sellers said his body was found 300 yards away in a field.

"If I'd have known he was home, I would have gotten him into the cellar," Sellers said.

Sara Sutter, 23, was at her brother's home when the storm hit. When the home was built a year ago, the builder urged construction of a safe room. On Sunday, Sutter, her mother, father and brother huddled in the safe room until the twister passed.

"Building the safe room was a great decision," Sutter said.

A separate twister killed one person in Quapaw, Okla., on Sunday evening, then crossed into Kansas, where it destroyed more than 100 homes and businesses and injured 25 people in the city of Baxter Springs. A farm building collapsed in Iowa from either a tornado or powerful straight-line winds, killing one woman.

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