In an all too familiar sight in Van Buren County, the chain saws are out and the clean-up under way from the third major tornado to ravage the county in five years.
This time residents were grateful that there was no loss of life.
But the tornado that blew through in the late afternoon of Wednesday, April 10, destroyed or damaged as many as 50 residences and injured four people.
The National Weather Service said last week that the tornado was an EF2 with winds up to 135 mph. The tornado touched down near Scotland and was on the ground for 17 miles, storm surveyors said. The damage was heavy in the Botkinburg and Highway 110 areas, Watergate Road, on Pinnacle Road off Highway 16 West, Walnut Grove and Scotland.
Botkinburg Foursquare Church, built by members 10 years ago, was a casualty of the tornado. Clean-up is ongoing — churches from across the state and outside of Arkansas have sent help, and even a judge, Mike Maggio of the 20th Judicial District, has been spotted working at the scene.
Pastor Ester Bass, who also in the Van Buren County Circuit clerk, said last week the loss was “just devastating.” But the church held services Sunday under a tent on loan from another church, and Bass vowed that Botkinburg Foursquare will be rebuilt.
Another family rebuilding is Millard and Debbie Wagner of Scotland. The couple rode the storm out in their basement, emerging to find the damage. Their home also was damaged in the 2008 tornado, and, in fact, Millard Wagner said last week that he has been through four tornadoes.
Office of Emergency Management Coordinator Jeana Williams said last week that the county has been through this too many times. She praised volunteers and first responders. Even though it’s a familiar scene, Williams said, “It’s still an eye-opener.”
Many residents echoed the sentiment that the county was fortunate this time because no one was killed. The tornadoes of February and May 2008 claimed five lives and the Scotland tornado of 2010 left one woman dead.