Nightly News   |  April 26, 2011

Arkansas twister survivor: 'It's just all gone'

After a tornado obliterated the small Arkansas town of Vilonia on Tuesday, killing four people, residents who were able to take cover recounted how they managed to survive. The Weather Channel's Mike Seidel reports.

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>>> good evening. it has already flattened and flooded several communities. last night here we said it would go on causing damage for the next three days. and tonight a monster storm system continues its slow churn across the united states . this has fired off some intense cells of tornadoes and flooding rains and has already left behind a lot of destruction. and when you look at where it's been, where it's headed, and who is still at risk to feel the effects of at least part of this storm, you see its true reach in size from west to east. tonight there are six tornado watches in effect in 13 separate states. and again, before this is all over, 150 million americans will experience this weather system . we have it all covered tonight. we'll start off with mike seidel from the weather channel . he's in arkansas this evening. mike, good evening.

>> reporter: and good evening, brian. 24 hours ago this small community was bracing for some bad spring weather, battening down the hatches for a rough night . but no one could have foreseen what could change this weather pattern, what happened here, and what changed lives forever.

>> there it is. massive. massive wedge tornado . coming over the hill.

>> reporter: storm chaser video captures the enormous tornado that swept through arkansas last night.

>> oh, my goodness. this thing is huge.

>> reporter: just 25 miles north of little rock in the small town of vilonia more than a dozen homes were destroyed.

>> it got pretty rough for a few minutes.

>> reporter: officials say the tornado, called a wedge because of its shape and large width, had wind speeds as high as 135 miles per hour.

>> the wind just started howling.

>> reporter: in this town of 3,800 there was little time to take cover.

>> then all heck broke loose and something come crashing through the front door, and it just -- you know, we just thought the house was going to explode any second.

>> reporter: today residents awoke to find neighbors missing and homes flattened and began to try to pick up the pieces .

>> just dropped everything out there.

>> heartbreaking. everything you've worked for all these years just gone.

>> reporter: with the forecast warning of more bad weather , officials worry they may not be able to help everyone who's been affected before the next storm hits.

>> we're just going to take it one step at a time and just do the best we can. that's all we can do.

>> reporter: brian, this same storm system with its damaging wind and heavy rain now threatens other communities. my colleague julie martin is north of here in poplar bluff , missouri, where they've already evacuated 1,000 residents because the levee on the black