Tornado levels Arkansas warehouse, employees walk away unharmed - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Lori Brown

Tornado levels Arkansas warehouse, employees walk away unharmed

A warehouse in Earle, Arkansas, was leveled by Friday's powerful tornado, but employees escaped unharmed.

In a matter of seconds, the tornado turned the massive building into a pile of rubble.

Glen Patterson, operations manager for Earle Industries, a company responsible for distributing home storage products to retailers, rode the tornado out from inside the warehouse by taking shelter between pallets of product.

"It's only by the grace of God we're alive," said Patterson from the site where the warehouse once stood. "The part I'm in, there's nothing left of it -- the roof, everything -- it's just gone."

Amazingly, four other warehouse workers survived the tornado's estimated 140 to 160 mile per hour winds without so much as a scratch.

"Definitely does sound like a freight train coming right at you. Soon as we heard that, roof started moving," said Patterson. "I really thought I was gone."

Peter Felsenthal, owner and president of Earle Industries, said they were blessed by the fact that employees work a different shift on Fridays, leaving by 2:30pm, and most had left for the day when the tornado slammed through the warehouse around 3:00pm.  

"We can replace product, we can replace the building. Thank goodness we've got everybody intact," said Felsenthal.

After the tornado demolished the warehouse, it continued on its path of destruction, knocking down poles, lifting and tossing a large block of concrete, and picking up a truck with the driver at the wheel. Paramedics managed to cut the driver out and the man survived.

Now Earle's residents and business owners must start the slow, painful process of putting their lives and businesses back together.

"We've got to come up with a plan to stay in business," said Patterson. "It's going to be a challenging experience, but we'll get through it."

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