MOUNTAINBURG — The trail of damage caused by a tornado in northeast Crawford County on Friday afternoon provoked a widespread response to the area Saturday.

The tornado, which tore through the Mountainburg area shortly after 4 p.m. Friday, destroyed a handful of structures, damaged tens of others and caused hundreds to lose their power, Crawford County Emergency Management Director Brad Thomas said. As a result of this damage, volunteers and first responders traveled miles to relieve the mountainside town of about 700 on Saturday.

"People are helping from other areas of Crawford County, and even further out," Mountainburg Police Chief Vincent Clamser said.

160 structures damaged, over 2,000 without power

The tornado, which was confirmed as an EF-2 by National Weather Service officials Saturday, developed during a line of severe weather that moved through the River Valley on Friday afternoon.

Though the path of the tornado had not been confirmed by the National Weather Service by Saturday evening, Thomas said he and other first responders believe the tornado originated northeast of Rudy and made its way north to Mountainburg. Traffic signs around the overpass of Interstate 49 over Dollard Road, which is just south of Mountainburg, were left warped following the storm.

The storm damaged approximately 160 structures, including six homes to the point of earning a "completely destroyed" designation from the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management, Thomas said. It also injured three people, displaced at least two families and caused three entrapments Friday, he said.

"I’m sure there are some relatives staying with other relatives," Thomas said.

Thomas said officials with the American Red Cross housed the two families in Warren's Rec Room in Alma on Friday night. The two families were moved there after the Mountainburg Elementary School, which was originally supposed to house anyone displaced from the storm, was without power.

The school was just one of over 2,000 power outages caused by the storm, Thomas said. County Judge Dennis Gilstrap said on Friday that restoring power to the area was going to be a central focus of the response.

Thomas said the most severe storm damage in Mountainburg was on the north end of town. Mountainburg Volunteer Fire Chief Brian Beckham said a few homes in the mountainous area around north Mountainburg had been "disintegrated" from the tornado.

Clamser said "a massive amount of debris" was on United States Highway 71 — the main roadway through which traffic moves in and out of Mountainburg — following the storm. Mountainburg police blocked off the highway all the way down to its intersection with Hickory Street until around 8 p.m. Friday.

"Power lines were across the road, we had structures damaged, and the weather was still bad," Clamser said of the aftermath.

“We did some cleanup last night, of what we could see. Mostly, it was just to make sure everyone was OK and that nobody was hurt, and cutting trees off of houses and stuff like that," Beckham said.

Thomas said Gilstrap was surveying the damaged areas of Crawford County with the Arkansas director of emergency management Monday. He asks anyone who lives in Crawford County and has storm damage on his or her home to call his office at (479) 471-3260.

“(If) your house was damaged by this storm, we need to get out to assess it," he said.

'I was in shock'

The most visible damage in Mountainburg was in the 1600 block of U.S. 71 and the 2000 block of Lake Fort Smith Road. In these few blocks, entire sides of houses were ripped off, trees were snapped in two and power lines were hanging low to the ground.

Farnese Kymes, who has lived in the affected stretch of U.S. 71 for nearly 50 years, said she was watching TV in her house when she heard the tornado was coming her way.

"I turned my TV off, unplugged it and came on the back porch, and I heard a roar," she said. "I knew that wasn’t right, so I went in, got in the bathroom and shut the door."

Though the tornado did little damage to Kymes' house, a garage and service station on her property, which she had owned for about 40 years, was destroyed. Cinder blocks, scrap metal and debris lay atop each other behind a tangle of power lines and fencing the following day.

Kymes said she and others "just kind of looked at everything" after the tornado.

"I’ve never been in (a tornado) before, so I didn’t know what to expect," she said.

Just northeast of where Kymes' service garage was destroyed, Ashley Overbey, who lives in the 2000 block of Lake Fort Smith Road, was finding refuge in a storm cellar. Overbey said she saw the tornado coming toward her house.

"We had just gotten in the storm cellar, and I looked over the hillside, and there it was," she said.

Overbey said the tornado took her by surprise. She said she figured the storm was only going to consist of strong winds.

The southwest side of Overbey's house was caved in following the storm. The storm also flipped a fence, spread debris across a field and knocked over several trees in the area surrounding Overbey's house.

Overbey said she was able to salvage most of the items inside the house. She said officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency are going to visit her Monday to assess the damage to her property.

"I was in shock," she said.

The response

Though much of U.S. 71 was blocked off immediately after the tornado, the highway was bustling the next day.

Officials with Oklahoma Gas & Electric Corp., Mountainburg Volunteer Fire and Rescue and numerous law enforcement agencies responded to the affected stretch of highway to relieve the area Saturday morning. They were accompanied by groups of volunteers who joined in the efforts.

The volunteers in Mountainburg on Saturday morning came from places like Fort Smith, Van Buren and West Fork to clean up the damaged property. One such volunteer was Matt Kymes of West Fork — Farnese Kymes' grandson.

“I wasn’t really too concerned, knowing that everyone was safe, but I didn’t realize the amount of damage it had actually done until we got here," he said.

Matt Kymes was one of several volunteers cleaning up the destroyed remains of his grandmother's garage Saturday. He said he and the others were "making progress" on the cleanup.

Across the street from Farnese Kymes' home, OG&E utility trucks took up an entire block of highway while they repaired power lines and utility poles. Mountainburg Volunteer Fire Department vehicles could be seen periodically driving up and down the highway.

"It’s just nice to see our community come together on something like this," Clamser said.

Fire Department officials teamed up with Mountainburg City Clerk Melony McKenzie to form and assign teams of volunteers Saturday. Beckham said the volunteer efforts would include cleaning up debris, trying to turn electricity back on and making sure roads are clear.

Thomas said Emergency Management officials were "coordinating some chainsaw crews" for Saturday's response.

"When there's daylight, we see what needs to be done, and we get it done," Thomas said.

In addition to coordinating volunteers, McKenzie said she was also collecting donations Saturday. The donations included money, dry goods and shovels.

Law enforcement officials from Bonanza, Van Buren and Mountainburg police departments, Arkansas State and Highway police and the Crawford County Sheriff's Office could be seen in Mountainburg around noon Saturday. Volunteers and others at the scene of the response said they saw deputies from Sebastian and Washington counties and officers from Booneville as well.

Clamser said all law enforcement officials in the Mountainburg area are coordinating their efforts with Emergency Management officials.

"We’re making sure everyone is safe, making sure everyone gets what he or she needs in terms of resources," he said.

McKenzie expressed confidence in the response she saw Saturday. She said the Mountainburg community is "going to move forward" from the tornado.

"We’re going to bounce back and take it one day at a time," McKenzie said. "This is day number one after the fact, and we’re just going to take it one day at a time, because we’ve got many days ahead that we're going to need volunteers, food and things like that."