Another tornado rolled through the area Sunday night. It hit Mayflower and Vilonia, both of which seem like unfair targets for nature's wrath, given that Mayflower had an oil spill barely one year ago, and Vilonia was just now starting to recover from the last tornado, which hit it almost exactly three years ago. My work day was spent in a weird combination of checking to make sure everyone and their loved ones were safe, trying to work out whether our organization could donate some t-shirts to the relief effort, and the day-to-day operations that would ordinarily be how I spend my day.
As an added bonus to the utter oddness that was this day, at lunch I came home to find a large piece of metal siding laying in the bushes next to my house. After looking my house over (it made no sense that it could have come from anywhere else - it was much too large to have blown there), I realized that it matched neither my house nor any of my neighbors houses. It was at that moment I realized it was probably tornado debris, blown in from miles away. Fortunately it neither smashed our house nor decapitated me as I walked to work.
Also at lunch a woman came by collecting toiletries for some of her family down in Mayflower. I gave her our collection of hotel shampoo bottles. It's hard to know what's useful, and your default impulse is to pile everything in.
My colleagues spent the last part of the day in large part trying to figure out how to get home. Although the early morning traffic through the affected area had been smooth, cleanup efforts and gawker backups now meant a quick drive had become an epic journey. I expect tomorrow I'll hear stories of being trapped on small roads west of the highway for hours. Or perhaps they're still driving.
The full extent of the damage is not yet completely known, but we know it's bad - at least 14 people are confirmed dead. Despite the grimness, there is one point of light - the way the community pulls together to help. It was amazing to me how quickly cleanup crews were organized - almost before the twister had spun itself out, churches and other groups were planning next steps. It would not surprise me if every person who owned a chainsaw in the area had turned up the next morning to begin clearing debris. If this community acted with such purpose all the time it would be unstoppable.