Central Arkansas community still on the mend after deadly April tornado

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VILONIA, Arkansas — Seven months after a deadly tornado struck Vilonia, residents and business owners are still working to rebuild the central Arkansas community.

Marty Knight, the head of the Rebuild Vilonia committee, said recovery has been strong since the twister struck central Arkansas on April 27. The storm killed 16, including 12 in Faulkner County.

"It's a marathon and not a sprint ... especially if you're trying to do it in an organized way," he told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (http://bit.ly/1z8bscV ).

Vilonia lost about 70 percent of its businesses in the storm. Several have been rebuilt, including a Dollar General store, and businesses some have reopened in their owners' homes.

Kieth's Texaco, a 17-year-old business demolished by the tornado, quickly reopened in temporary facilities, with many residents visiting for needed vehicle repairs. Owner Kieth McCord hopes to have a permanent station open in early 2015 and plans to expand it to include an auto-parts shop.

"You'd have to look long and hard to find any better example of ... the American spirit and ingenuity," said Allen Dodson, as county judge the top administrative officer of Faulkner County.

"He has been really good for that community," Dodson said. "He got that station back up and running early on" by using metal carports, a generator and temporary office space.

The tornado devastated about 160 homes in Vilonia, and Mayor James Firestone estimates about 50 are under construction. A roughly $13 million school that was expected to open this fall is on its way back, too. A roof is now up and workers hope to have it ready for classes next fall.

"We've come a long way," Knight said. "We still have a long way to go."


Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com

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