By Senior Airman Kaylee Clark, 19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs / Published May 08, 2014
President Barack Obama steps off of Air Force One May 7, 2014, at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. President Obama visited with victims, local officials and emergency responders in Vilonia who were affected by the tornado on April 27. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Kaylee Clark)
A tornado ripped through the Vilonia, Ark., April 27, 2014, killing at least 15 people, injuring dozens more and destroying multiple homes. Vilonia is approximately 20 miles away from Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Kaylee Clark)
LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. (AFNS) --
President Barack Obama landed here, May 6, to tour the local communities damaged by the April 27 tornado.
In his first visit to the state as president, Obama met with victims, local officials and emergency personnel.
"When something happens like this to a community, it happens to all of us," said Obama, during his address to community members in Vilonia.
At least 15 people were killed in Vilonia, White County and Faulkner County. The tornado ripped through Vilonia and Mayflower around 7 p.m. on a Sunday evening, injuring dozens more and destroying multiple homes.
"The folks here are tough, and they look out for each other," he said.
The president spoke with survivors of the tornado and said that although the loss of infrastructure and material things is important, the incident reminds us that nothing is more important than family.
"I could not be more impressed by the spirit of the community that's here," Obama said. "This is a testament to the strength of the community, the state of Arkansas and America."
He also heard concerns of the governor and local officials on the loss of up 85 percent of business in Vilonia.
The National Weather Service announced the final rating as a "high end" EF-4 with winds estimated between 180 and 190 mph. The tornado was reportedly at its strongest in downtown Vilonia.
The President declared a major disaster in the state of Arkansas and ordered federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the area. The severe weather that hit Arkansas was part of a complex of storms that killed at least 35 across the plains and South.
Members of the Arkansas National Guard were mobilized to support the communities of Vilonia and Mayflower April 28. The Guard members assisted local authorities with traffic control, search and rescue, and medical evacuation as well as delivering fresh water trailers to support the needs of local residents and the vast number of volunteers.
The Little Rock Air Force Base Airmen and family readiness center stood up a donation center to collect bottled water, clothing, and other items to assist Airmen and families affected by the tornado.