The smell of sap from freshly splintered trees hung over the Ozark Mountains on Monday after a tornado ripped through the area during the first big tourist weekend of spring, killing seven people.
Three of the victims were tourists staying at a campground.
At least 30 people were injured.
Buddy Marsalis struggled to hold back tears as he waited for sheriff’s deputies to let him look for any belongings that remained from the destroyed home of friends who were killed outside Sylamore.
His friends, Larry Carney, 52, and his wife, Jenny, 50, “were supposed to be baptized at the church last night,” Marsalis said. “If they’d have gone, they’d be alive.”
Near the town of Fox, about 15 miles southwest of Sylamore, uprooted pine trees leaned against the roof of Skyland Baptist Church, which remained standing. The tornado struck while about 30 people were in the hilltop church for Sunday night services.
“I looked out the window and I saw a building go by,” said the Rev. Ron Ivie as he helped church members clear away the trees.
The tornado hopscotched along hilly terrain in north-central Arkansas for some 45 miles.
Hardest hit was the Holiday Mountain Resort, a campground at Sylamore with hookups for recreational vehicles and easy access to fishing spots.
“It’s a pretty nice place,” Reggie Harrell said, then pausing. “It was.”
Campground employees said four people were killed there altogether.
Monday, Gov. Jim Guy Tucker declared Stone and Izard counties disaster areas, making residents eligible for financial aid. Preliminary damage estimates range from $4.5 million to $5 million, according to the state Office of Emergency Services.