Tornado: a Devastating Visitor at Buffalo Island Central


Martin Arellano and Hunter Murphy help Mr. Taylor clean up debris after the storm.

Eli Teeter, Editor

On December 10th, 2021, a series of tornadoes swept through parts of the Midwest and South regions of the nation. In its wake, it left paperweights of chaos littered among so many communities, communities subject to the misfortune felt under the damning sole of storm. The storm traversed eight states; at times, tornadoes and thunderstorms tread stable earth for over 100 miles. Of these states was The Natural State, the state of Arkansas. Within it, hundreds upon hundreds of small but close-knit communities, held tight by the adhesive ability of one another.


Take a closer look and the vibrant glow of one of these compact but content communities seems to outshine many others: Buffalo Island. Home to Buffalo Island School District, which so happens to be the school functioning behind this school paper, it showcases a vast flat of farmland with ancestral roots rich in history and local tales, both tall and true. 


A new tale, far from tall and unfortunately true, has swept through the community, and one can only assume that it will be retold henceforth in a misfortunate tone, and the mangled mess of that  natural destruction will not soon be forgotten by the residents of Buffalo Island. 


The previously mentioned tornado traveled through Buffalo Island at an alarming pace; it halted work shifts and evening relaxation, it prevented social events from continuing with their fun and festivities any further, it laid waste to several private establishments and homes, and it even took lives. During its rampage, homeowners and their families, friends near friends, all took shelter wherever possible, even leaving the area if the possibility and need were nigh. They coupled and collected one another, keeping close no matter the circumstance that could befell them. They were frightened, but they were connected. 


Monette and Leachville, and by extension the smaller communities surrounding them, experienced a fatal blow that knocked the wind out of the small towns. It was a surprise attack, an acute ambush that laid debris about the rural area in each direction. 


“We had left Monette after dropping our vehicle off at the house, and we were headed to Imboden, which was away from where the tornado was coming,” said Brooke Wattigney, a freshman at BIC and resident of Monette. “We stayed there till the tornado passed through Leachville. When we got back, our house had two holes in it  bigger than me, and was totaled along with two of our vehicles. I was kinda’ sad that our house has gotten hit since I had been raised there my whole life, but I was glad my family was okay.”


“When the tornado came through, I was at the high school getting [my friends] out of their homecoming dresses,” said Mallie Zielinski, a senior at BIC and resident of Monette. “When we came out of the dressing room, we were the only ones in the practice gym. [My friends] and I all drove to my house to take shelter. When the tornado hit my house, we were all in our tornado shelter with my mom, my step-dad, our two cats, and our dog. The tornado hurt many of their cars, leaving dents and shattered windows. We had to get a new roof, and we had to completely redo our pool liner. We went without electricity for three days, and we couldn’t go in and out of our neighborhood.”


“I was in Paragould when the tornado came through Leachville,” said Lane Luther, a senior at BIC and resident of Leachville. “My home in Leachville was affected by it, it tore the roof off our shop and damaged a semi. Also, it knocked a tree down in our driveway.”


After the storm raged onward, far away from this close-knit community and on to many others, the people of Buffalo Island were shocked at how damaging the storm turned out to be. It was an eye-opening experience. The voices of the community rang out in gratitude, celebrating that there were as few deaths and as little damage overall, how fantastically menacing it all seemed was but a farce, but still they cried out. People had died, homes had been obliterated, and much effort had to be put forth to put the pieces of Buffalo Island, left scattered and scrambled by the impairment imposed by the storm. 


Distribution centers popped up all across Buffalo Island: one in Leachville sprung up in the cafeteria of the old elementary school, one in Monette was situated in the cafeteria of the new high school, and another in Monette, set up by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), operated at the First Baptist Church. Due to the efforts put forth by these distribution centers, and the hundreds of necessities donated by people from within and outside Buffalo Island, those in need managed an unimaginable and seemingly unmanageable position. 


Still now, two months on, we move our hands, and our souls, to put the pieces back together; although there are lost, unforgotten, irretrievable pieces, we put together the ones we can find and shape our hands as one to fix a once desperate and desolate situation that tore holes in, not just homes and habitats, but in the hearts of an oh so hearty place of hope: Buffalo Island.