Greenwood, AR Tornado Devastates Town, Apr 1968
DEATH TOLL IN GREENWOOD TORNADO REACHES 13.
STATE POLICE FEAR MORE BODIES HIDDEN IN WRECKAGE.
Greenwood, Ark. (AP) -- A tornado that devastated this western Arkansas town Friday killed at least 13 persons, police said today, as the search for additional victims resumed.
More than 270 persons were treated for injuries, either at hospitals in nearby Fort Smith or in an emergency medical center established in the library here, state police said.
The tornado swooped out of a spring thunderstorm at 3:23 p.m. Friday and slammed into the business district, levelling about half of the buildings on the town square and heavily damaging most of the others.
It also slashed through residential neighborhoods on either side of the square as it cut a trail of destruction half a mile long and 200 feet wide.
"It's the roughest thing we ever had," said Mayor ED HALL, who estimated that two-thirds of the town of 2,000 was destroyed.
A shuttle of ambulances carried the more seriously injured to Fort Smith, 18 miles to the north.
State Police Capt. DAMON WILSON said the first search was not thorough and that he was fearful more bodies would be found today.
The heaviest damage was on the square, a cluster of two-story brick buildings, most of them more than half a century old.
The bell tower and third story of the ancient court house toppled into the street.
WALLACE GATTIS of nearby Barling, who was at an ice cream parlor when the storm struck, said, "the court house just exploded. It just popped out, like dynamite exploding."
HAROLD DAVIS of Greenwood said he drove into town minutes after the storm struck and saw people walking dazedly around the square.
"One woman was stumbling over fallen electrical wires," he said. "I yelled for her to be careful, but she just kept saying, 'oh, my God, Oh, my God,' and went on."
A company of Marine reservists were called from weekend training at nearby Fort Chaffee to guard against looting during the night.
Every building in the main building area, which is build on a square, was damaged.
Ambulances from several cities in the area converged on Greenwood to carry the injured to hospitals in Fort Smith.
The storm ripped through a residential area in southwest Greenwood before it slammed into the business district and then moved on to the northeast. Most of the dead were found in the first area hit.
Communications were knocked out and traffic jams developed on highways leading out of Greenwood, hampering rescue efforts.
The rampaging twister was spawned by a squalll line that dumped rain on eastern Oklahoma and western Arkansas late Friday.
The U.S. Weather Bureau said tornadoes also struck near Waveland, Booneville, Dardanelle and Clarksville, all towns north and east of Greenwood, but the only deaths and injuries reported were at Greenwood.
No estimate of the property damage was available but the Weather Bureau said the twister was the most destructive Arkansas has seen since 1952 when a March storm leveled Judsonia in central Arkansas.
Sebastian County Coroner RAY VINES said JAMES A. KING, one of the first identified as a storm victim, had died of natural causes before the tornado struck. His body was recovered from debris.
Identified victims with ages where available were:
WALTER OLIVER, 79.
EARLENE HARRISON and her daughter, DONNA, 18.
JOSEPH DUNCAN, 6.
ROBERT J. McGOWEN, 66.
ANGELA DUNCAN, 2.
CONNIE JOE SANIFORD, 4 months.
DONNA BELL, about 75.
A woman about 60.
Students at the high school escaped serious injury, although the building was struck.
DANNY SMITH, 18, a junior, said the students lay down on the floor when they saw the tornado approaching.
Students in a studyhall that collapsed were taken into a hall seconds before the walls fell in.
Northwest Arkansas Times Fayetteville Arkansas 1968-04-20