TYRONZA, Ark. — Tyronza, Arkansas was hit hard by the EF-1 tornado early Monday morning.
Classes were cancelled for a second day for students because the elementary school took a direct hit and lots of volunteers gathered to help clean up the city.
“Everything was wet,” said Cheri Smith, a sixth-grade teacher. “There’s a huge pile of garbage in the room that couldn’t be salvaged.”
Smith has been teaching at Tyronza Elementary School for 32 years.
“Immediately I came down,” Smith said. “This is my life. My kids are here. It hurts deeply. It’s tragic.”
She was one of the dozens of volunteers we saw inside the school Tuesday morning.
The sixth-grade students, she said, will be transferred to neighboring Lepanto for the foreseeable future.
“An hour-and-a-half later and you’ve got kids standing and waiting on buses, parents unloading kids,” said Micky Pierce, superintendent of East Poinsett County School District.
Pierce surveyed the damage inside the school and was anxiously awaiting news from engineers doing the same.
“I would guess the major portion where the roof is missing, we are going to go ahead and temp it; get it where we can keep any future rains out of the building,” Pierce said. “We will probably patch part of it and wait until the summer when the students are out to patch that roof.”
Pierce did not have a timeline for us on when the students will be able to get back to school. That will depend on whether any parts of the building are safe for students.
As crews work to secure the building, the district is making arrangements for temporary trailers to house classrooms if necessary.
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Pierce said the district has an alert system set up to communicate with parents. All information regarding when kids will go back to school will be sent directly to their phones.
Volunteers from the Southern Baptist Disaster relief were also within the city to help clean up.
“We come in and clean up,” said Jay Paul Woods, incident commander. “We cut trees off of houses, move limbs out of yards, do a lot of work with the families.”
More than 50 members of his team, all Arkansas church goers, flooded the town’s streets Monday.
The volunteers take time off work to help clean up.
In just a matter of hours, the volunteers and utility crews had the main highway that runs through Tyronza cleared of massive tree limbs, power lines and other debris.
They quickly moved to the residential streets to clean up what the tornado left behind.
Both the Sheriff and County Judge tell us they’re incredibly grateful for the help.
Woods said they plan to be in Tyronza through the end of the week.
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