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History Relating To The Events:

Day of the Killer Tornadoes (1978)

Unique home spares Vilonia family from Arkansas tornado's direct hit

Twister passed directly over Vilonia, Ark., family's underground home
Jerri Weaver and her daughter Liz, in front of their underground house in Vilonia, Ark. 
(Jason Sickles/Yahoo News)
VILONIA, Ark. — Jerri Weaver’s house is certainly unconventional. Some might even call it kooky. But come crunch time — when Mother Nature’s fury is at her doorstep as it was Sunday night — the native Arkansan has peace of mind in her bunker like abode.
“I have no fear,” Weaver said. “I know that we’re going to be OK.”
That’s because the 1,600-square-foot home was built into a hillside. While some people here in tornado-prone Central Arkansas have storm shelters, Weaver and her family have essentially lived in one for 30 years.
The initial design and purpose of the home was for energy savings (the earthen insulation requires less heating and cooling), but the Weavers have come to value the home’s near tornado-proofing.
“At first people think it’s weird, but you start talking to them and they realize it’s pretty cool,” said Liz Weaver, Jerri’s daughter. “We built Hobbit-holes before they were cool.”
Voyne Weaver, Jerri’s father-in-law and a former concrete dealer, has built four of the underground houses along Vilanco Lane. Each is constructed with 10-inch thick concrete walls and another 14 inches of concrete in the ceiling. The top of the home is buried in two feet of dirt.
“I get to mow my roof,” Jerri said.
Jerri’s dwelling has three bedrooms and two baths where she and her husband, Randy, raised daughters Liz and Randi. Aside from having few windows, the inside of the house resembles any other residence with a full kitchen, living room, etc. A white lattice fence and a rock facing out front give the place a cottagelike charm.

View photo

Behind the rock facing are 10-inch thick concrete walls. 
The roof is constructed of 14 inches of concrete with …
Sunday’s tornado packed wind speeds of up to 165 mph as it rumbled through Vilonia, a bedroom community of 4,100 about 30 minutes north of Little Rock.
Two miles from the Weavers' home, the twister wiped out the Parkwood Meadows subdivision. Authorities said at least 11 people were killed in Faulkner County, eight of them in Vilonia.
In El Paso, Ark., seven miles on the other side of the Weavers' home, a friend of Jerri’s was killed.
“It’s just sad,” she said. “I kept thinking ‘not again.’ It’s just been three years since the last tornado hit here.”
While most of their home may be a fortress, the Weavers knew that the two 9-by-6-foot windows at the front of the house might not offer much protection for what was barreling their way.
“It was just black out the windows, we couldn’t see a thing,” said Jerri, 55. “But we could hear a lot of stuff.”
So the family headed for a back bedroom with their two dogs. Even being in a bunkerlike room, Jerri said, they could tell the cyclone was crossing above them.
“Our ears were popping,” she said. “It lasted three to four minutes and it was gone.”
They emerged to find several large trees toppled away from the home and one of their cars moved from its parking spot. The house windows were also caked in leaves, dirt and other debris.
“But everything else was fine,” Jerri said.
On Tuesday, two Red Cross workers dropped by the house to record property damages, but the Weavers had only blessings to share.

“I feel guilty we don’t hardly have anything wrong, and right down the road there is nothing left,” Jerri said.

Students from towns hit by tornadoes join forces

Video: In 2011, 158 lives were lost in Joplin, Mo., due to a tornado, and last year a storm took 24 lives in Moore, Okla. While that community continues to recover, local school kids are getting assistance from some friends over 200 miles away.

An elementary school in Moore, Okla., was reduced to rubble by a tornado last year, and seven children lost their lives. Kids who also endured the devastating effects of a tornado reached out to help those still reeling from the loss.

The kids came from Joplin, Mo., a town where 158 people died when a tornado struck in 2011. When the storm hit Moore last year, 24 lives were lost. To reach out, 14 kids from Joplin traveled four hours by bus to share their experiences and help the community move forward. They brought books with them — and a check for $3,000. 

"We're showing them the hope and the courage ... they did get knocked down, but they're having courage and they're rebuilding it better than it was last time," said Kaden Parker, a student from Joplin, Mo. 

The town of Moore is rebuilding. New homes are going up, and the elementary school is coming back. But as the rebuilding continues, the kids of Moore are still dealing with the grief that has come in the wake of disaster. 

Moore student Cierra Bradley was one of the students who lost someone close to her. "My friend Sydney, she was in the third grade, I miss her so much," she told NBC's Luke Russert. 

Principal Amy Simpson says support from fellow kids has helped her students in Joplin, giving them the chance to talk about how they feel.

Kaden Parker said he was happy for the opportunity to give back. 

"It feels amazing, even though we haven't seen their faces until now, it just feels good to give, better to give than to receive," he said.

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