Thousands still without power, airport damaged after weekend storm

FORREST CITY, AR (WMC) - Clean-up and rebuilding are underway in Forrest City.

Straight line winds at 100 mph caused major damage in parts of Eastern Arkansas over the weekend.

By Monday, thousands of families and businesses were still without power.

Locals working to clean up the damage downtown were surprised to hear that according to the National Weather Service, it was not a tornado that created all the debris late Saturday night.

"They've never seen anything like it before, just vrooom!" said Jim Wolgamott with Arkansas United Contractors. "Just crushed it."

Wolgamott and his construction crew came to help after hearing about the lumber warehouse that was flattened by the wind.

"We're cleaning up," Wolgamott said. "We jumped in to help them because...everything was in a mess. So, we just laid our job down to come help."

While the work continues, kids nearby are giving new meaning to the phrase go climb a tree.

"Yeah, they think it's a jungle gym," said Damario Mcshan.

One huge 20-foot tree was a lot less fun Saturday night when it fell just feet away from Mcshan's home as he tried to hurry his five children down to the basement.

"Tree went down, hit the ground and shook my house," Mcshan said. "I mean just shook my house."

More than 17,000 people were without power when the storm first hit. Now, that number is down to about 2,500, and McShan is one of them.

"Trying to keep this food from spoiling," Mcshan said. "Most of it is already there but we'll be alright."

The storm brought out the spirit of the town, which can be summed up in one word: brotherhood.

St. Francis Sheriff's Office said only one person was injured and transported to the hospital.

Locals said the place hardest hit by these straight-line winds Saturday night was the Delta Regional Airport, which services both St. Francis County and Cross County.

Pilot owners came out Monday to find the hangar at the airport ripped apart. Planes were thrown out of their hangars, and some of those planes can't be replaced

"Numbness and shock," said pilot and Delta Regional Airport Commissioner Corbin Brown. "You know I can't believe this happened."

Brown found his Cessna 172 demolished.

"I think the wind hit it and lifted it up and all the weight went to the tail, the tail stayed in the ground and it just folded like a sandwich," Brown said.

The Emergency Location Transponder on his plane, which was designed to send a distress signal if the plane crashes, is still beeping.

"I actually got a call from the Air Force yesterday wanting to know where I was, where the plane was and if I needed assistance," Brown said.

Brown said insurance will hopefully replace his plane and rebuild the hangar, but other pilots aren't so lucky.

John Kerr owns a classic World War II-era plane that has been in his family for the last 40 years.

"It's an antique classic...that you can't replace," Kerr said.

An American flag flies above the rubble where six total planes were damaged and debris from the hangar built in the last few years was thrown hundreds of yards away.

However, the spirit of pilots has not been deterred.

"We will rebuild," Brown said. "We're not hoping to. Ain't no step for a stepper like I always say."

Engineers who helped build the hangar were out surveying the damage Monday.

They said it will take months to rebuild, but hopefully, by the fall another hangar will be there in its place.

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