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Sunday, 5 April 2015

Arkansas: Tornado hits Baptist Boys Ranch

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Several homes and a boys ranch were damaged in the storms north of Harrison (Arkansas) Thursday night. The tornado touched down around 12:30 AM. The National Weather Service was in the area assessing damage Friday and confirms it was a small tornado that hit the area near Center Loop Road and Quincy Lane. That same tornado continued east, eventually striking the Arkansas Baptist Boys Ranch.

27 teenage boys in four separate houses all had a rude awakening; Some to a tornado warning, moments before it hit, while others were surprised by the storm. House parent Danae Stevens says, "I remember hearing a bunch of wind and all kinds of crazy weather stuff going on, and then I heard zzzzzz over us, and I'm like Aaron, what's going on?"

Stevens and her husband met the boys of Arapaho house in the living room, where they found what the storm left behind, chimney stones and pieces of the ceiling.

"I just mainly was concerned about them and concerned about the fact that we have no roof on our house, and making sure everybody had shoes and socks on, so they wouldn't step on anything," says Stevens.

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She says the boys did remarkably well, although theirs was the worst damage to an occupied building. "It was amazing how calm they were and they did exactly what we told them," says Stevens.

But the entire ranch took a beating. "We have roofers trying to cover up and control any damage," says David Perry, Executive Director of Arkansas Baptist Children's Homes.

The building most severely damaged was Independence Hall, and the ranch says a guest had been staying in the building recently, but thankfully not Thursday night. "It is a blessing. Nobody was in there. That's the one building where somebody stood a real chance of getting hurt," says Perry.

Many volunteers showed up to help clean up debris Friday, and the boys ranch is just starting to work on repair plans.

"It's not as pretty as it was when we went to bed, but we still have a home and we still have our lives. That is obviously the most important thing," says Stevens.

Perry says, "Really, it could have been a lot, lot worse. It could have easily been a lot worse. We're grateful, God's blessed us."

The boys ranch has already received offers of help from churches all over the state.