Mayor Bob Freeman praised emergency workers and the citizens of Van Buren Monday for their quick and generous responses to Friday night’s tornado that swept through the area.

“When the tornado struck our fire and police responded immediately, checking homes for any injuries, going door to door and making sure gas was turned off to prevent any further problems,” Freeman said. “Thank goodness there were only minor injuries.”

What’s being reported by the national weather service as an EF-2 tornado destroyed homes in the northwest portion of Van Buren, especially in the neighborhood on Sandstone Drive just off Rena Road. Volunteers were quick to step in, lending a hand to the residents as they began the daunting task of starting to put their lives back together.

“The response has been great from individuals in the community getting out and helping with cleanup, clearing roads and just helping out any way they can,” said Freeman. “ I was out there and I’d say from Saturday at about 7 a.m. to Sunday at around 7 a.m. the change was very dramatic as far as the cleanup went.”

Freeman said there were “about four homes that were completely destroyed and about another 70 that sustained some kind of damage at one end or the other,” damage that including anything from shingles off the roof to windows blown out or siding being damaged.

The mayor said the damage wasn’t enough to meet requirements for federal assistance, but he wanted to assure the residents the city will be there to help them through the cleanup process.

“Since Crawford County was really the only county that received damage we didn’t meet the thresholds to qualify for state or federal assistance,” he said Monday. “The city is going to take care of removing vegetation like leaves and trees. In fact we’ve got trucks out there now hauling off those materials to compost. We’ll get a burn permit to dispose of that material, but we won’t be able to take any of the construction debris.”

Residents will have to be in touch with their insurance companies, which should cover the removal of debris and further site cleanup.

“The best thing is there were no injuries,” Freeman said. “If any of the families need anything they can contact us and we can direct them to where they can get help. There are churches and other organizations out there that can help. The community will step up.”

The mayor added, “If anybody has any donations they want to make they can direct that to the local churches and they’ll put those into separate accounts for disaster relief and if somebody needs something they’ll make sure it gets taken care of.”

The mayor’s office also sent out a press release Monday further detailing steps residents need to take in disposing of debris left by the storm.

The city's release states that citizens may dispose of natural and vegetative debris at the city's Yard Waste Facility located at 2844 South Highway 59.

The facility will be open daily during the week of Dec. 3 from 8 a.m. to noon. Beginning the week of Dec. 10 the facility will resume its normal hours of operations. Those days and hours are Wednesdays and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon.

Citizens may also place natural and vegetative debris (tree limbs, shrubery, etc.) at the edge of their property, near the curb, for the city to pick up.

Citizens are responsible for removal of construction debris from their properties and are asked to consult with insurance carriers about existing policies covering their debris removal as necessary expenses in restoring property back to its previous condition.

Construction materials (boards, shingles, insulation, plumbing, electrical, etc.) and furniture will not be accepted at the Yard Waste Facility or picked up by the city.

Waste items not to be included in the city’s pick up include household garbage – to be collected by sanitation service – and hazardous and electronic waste. Those items can be taken to the central collection point located behind Municipal Utilities (2806 Bryan Road).

Hours of operation are Wednesdays from 8 a.m. to noon. Please check the Municipal Utilities website at www.vbmu.org for acceptable items and quantities.

Also included in the press release from the city is a reminder to residents that construction and roofing repairs do require a building permit. This process will protect residents by verifying that all contractors are licensed and insured.