The tornado devastated sections of Arkansas. (AP Photo/The Fayetteville Observer, Johnny Horne)
Bobby Herndon, a Matco Tools distributor in Floyd, AR, got called into action this past weekend as tornadoes tore through parts of the south central states, killing at least 18 people and leaving thousands homeless in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Iowa. Herndon’s home was spared, but some of his customers were not as fortunate. He has since been involved in search and rescue activity.
According to news reports, nine people were killed in Vilonia, which is 20 miles from Herndon’s home. After seeing the tornado from afar Sunday evening, Herndon took his wife and dogs from their home and drove them 15 miles out of harm’s way to one of their son’s home in Beebe, AR.
Not knowing the impending fate of his own home as the tornado ripped apart houses and businesses in its path, Herndon and his son headed towards Vilonia after hearing the town had been devastated. The tornado only hits the ground for a few minutes at a time, he notes, but in that short time span it uproots everything its path.
A former Iraq war veteran, Herndon was experienced in emergency evacuation methods and was anxious to help find the injured in Vilonia. “I might be retired from the army, but I’m not retired from who I am,” he notes.
He was also naturally concerned about his oldest son, Bobby, Jr., who lives in Vilonia. He was relieved to find out that his son was already involved in searching for the injured.
Herndon and his sons kept in touch with law enforcement officials as they drove through residential areas finding storm victims and transporting them to medical centers. In one case, they used a displaced door as a stretcher to move people from the wreckage. He says the devastation reminded him of some of what he saw while serving in Bagdad, Iraq in 2004.
On Monday, Herndon bought a new chainsaw to use to help clear debris as he continues his volunteer recovery activities. Homes and buildings were covered with debris. Roads were closed in some areas because of overturned cars and debris.
Herndon has also visited customers to see how well they survived the destruction. He was pleased to find that all of his customers survived, even though some lost their homes. One customer also lost his business.
At this writing, Herndon was unsure what impact the tornadoes will have on his business, but he is more concerned about helping to find people who are missing.