Tornado's Wrath Demolishes Half a Town
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
A tornado hit the town of Marmaduke, Arkansas at about 5:30 yesterday afternoon. It destroyed about half the town where 1,200 people live in the northeastern corner of the state.
Tommy Baker is police chief of Rector, Arkansas, about eight miles away. He's in Marmaduke helping with emergency operations.
Chief TOMMY BAKER, (Police Chief, Rector, Arkansas): We've got just about every power line, telephone pole, and phone poles and everything down on the ground. Plus wires strowed (sic) all over the place, running across the highways, down on people's houses. Behind me is a, looks like a pretty late model truck where it took a tree and just set it on top of it. And it probably left, maybe, half or little more standing. Just everywhere you look, anywhere you look, destruction.
BLOCK: Now, was there any warning or were people there given any indication that this was headed their way?
Chief BAKER: Yes, ma'am. Everybody was out looking. I, myself, seen the tornado from my town that hit Marmaduke. You could see it coming across, this is farming land, it's a lot of open ground, and you could see it coming in from the west, coming in towards Marmaduke.
BLOCK: Is this true that there were no people actually killed in Marmaduke despite the heavy damage that that town took?
Chief BAKER: At this time, there is nobody that has been reported dead. They had several that was hurt. But none so far has been found, you know. So, they're still looking, so we don't know. But so far, there hasn't been anybody killed.
BLOCK: Well, that's a bit of good news.
Chief BAKER: Yes, ma'am, it is. You know, you can replace your home and your businesses and all that, but you can't replace a life.
BLOCK: How do you figure it was that there was no loss of life? At least as far as you can tell right now?
Chief BAKER: Ma'am, I don't know. We've got the First Baptist Church here is tore up pretty bad and I think it was, services was going on. Looks like the Church of Christ church here in Marmaduke also was tore up, and services was going on in the church. So I really don't know how, you know, people got out of this thing alive. I really don't. You know, there was quite a few people in these churches and how they ever got out alive, I don't know. But they did.
BLOCK: What's going on in Marmaduke right now?
Chief BAKER: Right now we've got all the power companies and Red Cross and the telephone people and like that, out here working trying to get things cleaned up. We've got trees down everywhere. And volunteers that are cutting trees down with chain saws and police officers from, probably, five different towns around Marmaduke is here helping with this.
BLOCK: And what are you doing, yourself?
Chief BAKER: Me, I'm, right now, keeping people from coming down this street, but what I was doing earlier was to make sure looters wasn't getting in houses.
BLOCK: Is there a fear of that?
Chief BAKER: Yes, ma'am. There's always of fear of people preying on helpless people, you know what I mean? You know, coming and getting your television or your life's saving or whatever you might have in a house that's been destroyed, you know.
BLOCK: Yeah, if there's anything left.
Chief BAKER: If anything's left. And of course, some of these house hadn't got anything left, but others just blowed the windows off and the roof off and their belongings are still in the house, you see what I'm saying?
BLOCK: Mm hmm. I understand that Marmaduke was pretty badly hit back in 1997 by another tornado. Must be incredibly hard to go through the same thing twice.
Chief BAKER: Yes, ma'am, it is. I also came down and helped with that, and I thought was a pretty bad tornado, but it's nothing compared to this one.
BLOCK: Well, Chief Baker, thanks for talking with us, and best of luck to everybody there.
Chief BAKER: Okay, thank you very much.
BLOCK: That's Police Chief Tommy Baker of Rector, Arkansas. He's working with the relief effort in the town of Marmaduke. Yesterday's tornado destroyed about half the town.