Interstate Helps Victims of Arkansas Tornado
During a harrowing weekend that hosted what forecasters called “a severe weather event,” the team at Brian Strait’s Interstate All Battery Center and IBS of Arkansas studied their local Sherwood, Ark. news stations, all reporting on a massive storm system turning into a deadly tornado that killed 15 people and destroyed more than 3,000 homes in three counties. Media carefully tracked the tornado’s path, giving the Interstate Batteries team a distinct idea of which dealers were hit.
Interstate All Battery Center store manager Shawn Stark said, “Local sirens were going off in Sherwood too, but the local news was painting a pretty clear picture of where the storm was going through, so we felt pretty safe.”
The twister touched down 20 miles west of IBS of Arkansas’ warehouse and slashed a violent 80-mile line northeast, razing two Arkansas towns to the ground: Mayflower and Vilonia.
Four Dealers in particular were in the line of the tornado, three in Mayflower and one in Vilonia. Brian’s team was able to reach Keith’s Service Center in Vilonia on Monday, but due to storm damage and the great number of first responders in Interstate 40, was not able to reach Mayflower RV in Mayflower until later.
Contacting them by phone, Shawn learned three Mayflower RV employees were onsite when the tornado hit. They survived by taking shelter in the basement while Mayflower RV’s new used car lot was scattered across the interstate and beyond.
In Vilonia, 15 employees of Keith’s Service Center left their homes to take shelter in a cinder block center office. Fortunately, their homes were untouched.
The morning after, Distributor Brian Strait and Store Manager Shawn Stark contacted all the dealers they could and set to planning what kind of relief they could provide. That’s when the values of Servant’s Heart and Courage shine brightest.
“The entire community, the majority of the state is coming in to help,” Shawn said.
Because Mayflower was closed off, Shawn and Route Sales Manager Ray Cobb drove to Vilonia to clean up as much as possible as well as donate batteries, flashlights and shovels. The owner also asked them to remove batteries to prevent looting.
Additionally, the Interstate Batteries warehouse in Urbandale, Iowa, has sent a pallet of D-cell batteries and flashlights, which are destined for the Mayflower shelters set up in local schools. The home office has sent a pallet of bottled water to support relief efforts.
Vilonia is a particularly tragic case. The town is under nightly martial law and a boil order, and the National Guard has blocked traffic to protect the town from looters. Just three years ago on April 25, 2011, an EF2 tornado flattened Vilonia, killing four people and destroying local schools, homes and business buildings. Many that had just been rebuilt from that storm were once again reduced to rubble last week, including a $14 million middle school, originally scheduled to open this fall.
Watch for updates as more information comes in.
For our team members in the area, keep enriching lives and leading with what people need.
If you’d like to help those affected by the tornadoes and associated flooding across the southeast, we recommend donating through the American Red Cross.