It was 38 years ago, March 31, 1976, that a tornado cut through the center of Cabot, killing five people and forever changing the face of the city; debris hung in trees for years afterward. The youngest of those who remember the storm are now nearing 40 years old - but the disaster remains etched in the city’s memory. The scars are there, although recognizable as such only by those who know the town that was before the storm.
From an account written by George Arnold a day later:
Pure hell - in the form of a killer tornado - dipped down from the Cabot sky Monday afternoon, killing five, injuring scores more and crumpling the town’s business district like a piece of paper. The tornado, which ripped directly across the business section about 3:18 p.m., leveled stores, smashed homes, uprooted trees and filled the town with its own shattered debris.
Jo Lee Logston, 27, of near Cabot,
Linda Lee Eisenhower, 38, Cabot,
Sandra Eisenhower, 10, Cabot,
Robert Maul, 45, Jacksonville,
Vanessa Kay Sory, 2, Cabot.
The first four died in the Windwood Realty building at the corner of First and Pine Streets. Mrs. Logston and Mrs. Eisenhower were both employed there.
Vanessa Kay Sory died at Ray Trailer Court.
Immediately after the storm, estimates of those injured ranged up to 150-200. State Police Monday night released a list of 25 people from the area who had been admitted to area hospitals and said another 37-40 had been treated for injuries and released.
No one knew how many had received minor injuries…
Estimates of business damaged or destroyed totaled about 60 and the Red Cross estimated 700 homes were damaged.
Early Tuesday afternoon, emergency investigators said the city estimated damages in the business district at $6-7 million. Residential damages amounted to $1-1.5 million, they said…
On hand soon after the disaster were Air Force personnel from Little Rock Air Force Base, National Guardsmen, representatives from the Salvation Army and the Red Cross, numerous citizen band radio club members and law enforcement officers and firemen from all over central Arkansas…
State Trooper Eddie Seaton was in his patrol car at the Highway 5 overpass before the tornado hit when he saw "a little white whirlwind."
"Suddenly," he said, "it developed into a dark funnel cloud and hit the ground about five miles southwest of Cabot."
The tornado’s path was estimated to be about 400 yards wide and nine miles long. It may have touched down as many as seven times, witnesses said…
School children at the Cabot schools also escaped injury as the tornado apparently jumped over the campus. The tornado came just as schools were dismissing.
As night fell, military personnel and law enforcement officers were announcing that the destroyed sections of town were a "restricted area" and people violating the restrictions would be arrested.