Mar 30, 2020
LITTLE ROCK, AR -- With so much bad news surrounding the outbreak of COVID-19 and the lasting destruction it will do to our communities, this virus just saved hundreds of lives in Jonesboro, Arkansas, over the weekend. Kid’s baseball games had been cancelled, restaurants were empty, and the biggest shopping mall in town was locked and its parking lot vacant with most folks at home, glued to their news delivery devices more so than usual, now telling them to take cover as an EF3 rated tornado with winds of 140 mph, and a destruction path 600 yards wide terrorized the core of the normally bustling town.
Brian King, a former chair of USA Rice who lives in Jonesboro, said, “David Gairhan and I live in the same neighborhood. On Saturday evening, the storm traveled over the neighborhood, with the tornado touching down a half mile past us. We were fortunate that the destruction was only to buildings and belongings, and no lives lost.”
Gairhan said, “The tornadic system started in Jackson County, causing wind damage on multiple farming operations, then continued directly towards the heart of Jonesboro, the most heavily populated urban community in a 70-mile radius. We are just so thankful and amazed we had no fatalities with few serious injuries. We’re all safe, that’s all that matters.”
Jonesboro has become an urban hub for the surrounding farming communities, with multiple rice businesses and employees calling the community home. Most operations located outside of the storm’s path were spared. However, some farms and businesses sustained heavy damage when the tornado struck.
“Managing storm cleanup efforts on top of working to contain the spread of an aggressive virus will be a large lift for the community,” said USA Rice President & CEO Betsy Ward. “Fortunately, we know Jonesboro is a resilient city, and will no doubt be back on its feet soon.”