A tornado moved through central parts of Jonesboro, Arkansas, March 28 for several miles, causing millions of dollars worth of damage to the city and surrounding areas.
According to Jonesboro news website KAIT 8, the EF3 tornado traveled through Jonesboro with maximum wind speeds of 140 mph. On a zero to five scale, an EF3 has winds that range between 136-165 mph and cause severe damage. The tornado stayed on the ground for 10-20 miles, causing 22 injuries, two of which required hospitalization. No fatalities were reported.
Jonesboro police implemented a curfew Tuesday, March 31, from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., according to KAIT 8. With major roads and over 450 homes affected by the storm, police asked residents to stay in their homes or shelters to aid the initial recovery process.
While Jonesboro got the brunt of the tornado’s power, the storm moved through Northeast Arkansas and caused more damage at the Arkansas-Missouri border. The tornado prompted Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson to declare a state disaster upon seeing the aftermath.
“Today I took a flyover of Jonesboro to assess the damage from yesterday’s tornado,” Hutchinson tweeted March 29. “I am grateful that no lives were lost.”
One of the losses from the tornado was the Mall at Turtle Creek, according to KAIT 8, with at least $100 million in damage cost alone. Senior Jonesboro resident Lizzie Ramsey said her family owns a rental house near the mall; the family staying there was safe, but the house was damaged badly.
“Some of the houses in the neighborhood are completely fine, while others are flattened and destroyed,” Ramsey said. “I am so thankful that my family is safe — and our house.”
Sophomore Avery Barnett is also a resident of Jonesboro. She said the tornado did not move toward her house. However, she was concerned about Jonesboro after seeing the effects of the March 2 storm in middle Tennessee.
“It was one of the scariest things I’ve ever seen,” Barnett said. “It made me realize how serious and life-threatening tornadoes actually are.”
Since the storm happened during social distancing due to COVID-19, more injuries and fatalities might have occurred if the practice had not been in place. Barnett said COVID-19 helped cut any possible losses.
“Half our mall was destroyed; restaurants and stores were completely wrecked,” Barnett said. “People began to realize how much worse things could’ve been. Since everyone was social distancing, most people were at home … The coronavirus probably saved lives in Jonesboro.”
On the other hand, Ramsey said social distancing has made it more difficult for the city’s recovery process.
“It is hard for people as they are trying to clean and help out with the town but, at the same time, are supposed to be practicing social distancing,” Ramsey said.
Recovery for the city may be a long process, but Ramsey said a flood of people volunteered to help those who were affected.
“Seeing the damage this tornado has caused has brought tears to my eyes, but I know our God is stronger,” Ramsey said. “I know this is something our town will recover from, and [we] will grow stronger together.”