High winds destroy shop, camper

Thursday, January 26, 2012
The tattered remains of Ricky and Sheila Vaughn's shop in the aftermath of Sunday's storm

High winds during a storm Sunday night, Jan. 22, created concern throughout the area, with much of Northeast Arkansas included in a tornado watch.

In the case of at least one area family, the concern was justified.

Sheila Vaughn was in the kitchen of her home at 5384 Route 139 between Piggott and Holly Island when the storm hit at 8:43 p.m. Sunday.

"The windows in my kitchen started moving in and out," Vaughn said. "It made my ears pop."

The high winds caused Vaughn and her son Michael, 24, to take refuge in the family's storm cellar.

"My son said, 'Mom, that's a tornado,'" Vaughn said. "We got in the shelter and stayed there about 10 minutes."

In just a matter of moments, the high winds had gone through the area. "It was all over by 9:05," Vaughn said.

Though the winds were brief, their impact was instantly noticeable. A metal shop used by Vaughn's husband, Ricky, owner of Ricky Vaughn Trucking, was knocked down during the storm. The structure was basically flattened, with the roof resting on a collection of items stored inside. Ricky Vaughn was away from home on a job.

"My son opened the door at one point and shined a flashlight out. He said, 'Mom, your shop's gone.' I saw it and just couldn't believe it. That's when we realized what we'd been through."

Also a casualty of the damaging winds was Ricky and Sheila's brand new camper, which tumbled from the south end of the property to the north end, crumpling as it rolled.The camper ultimately came to rest on its side.

"We never used that camper," Vaughn said. "Not one time."

The Vaughns purchased the camper to replace one they lost in a similar fashion three years ago.

The winds and debris also knocked off the top of the Vaughns' propane tank, causing the gas to spew into the air. This, coupled with a downed, sparking light pole, created a new threat.

"The leaking propane and live wires were frightening, but because the wind was blowing the gas away from the lines and the house, we were able to stay here."

After the storm passed, Vaughn's first two calls were to her two sons who live in the area to make sure they were okay. She then contacted emergency personnel, who in turn contacted gas and electric representatives to ensure the residence was safe.

"A lot of people came to try to help," Vaughn said. "I appreciate that. They couldn't be sure what they were walking into, but they came right away."

Vaughn said she doesn't believe straight-line winds would have caused the damage.

"I have things spread all over my home," Vaughn said as she scanned the backyard and field, both littered with debris and remnants of the shop, some stretching as far as the eye can see. "Straight-line winds couldn't do that."

Vaughn said she believes a small tornado touched down on her property, resulting in the damage.

Fortunately, no one was harmed at the home.

"Everyone's fine," Vaughn said. "It was just scary. I didn't sleep afterwards. The wind blew all night long."

There were no other reports of significant damage in Clay County. There were incidents of power outages in some areas, but few lasting effects.

National Weather Service reports of the storm included estimates of wind gusts in excess of 60 miles per hour.

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