It was a monster. You could see it building as the Tuesday afternoon wore on, yellow and red on the televised weather radar as the squall line built, ever-more dire predictions from every more stern-faced television forecasters.
It was getting dark when it hit, classified as an F4 – meaning winds over 200 mph, as high as 260. Roofs were lifted, trees uprooted or snapped off, cars overturned, buildings flattened and pushed, destruction everywhere. All this told wide-eyed the next morning as neighbors checked on neighbors, chainsaws and cell phones. Three people had been killed in the county.
The view changed. It used to be going south through Clinton on 65 there were trees as you came down the hill. Those are gone, now an open view out to the once-hidden airport and past. Going out 16 toward Holley Mountain the same, once tree-lined, now open fields.
History outside the county records this as the “Super Tuesday” tornado outbreak, a two-day event which had Van Buren County toward its western edge, so-named as it was the same day as primary elections for the upcoming presidential election, so named as it was a flood of massive storms, with an F4 in Van Buren County.
It was, of course, the big news for the paper. It also happened right on deadline for the Feb. 6 edition. Still, page 1 was covered with photos of the aftermath and a short description of the Super Tuesday storms. By the following week it was easier to make more sense out of everything that happened. More pictures of course, plus info on FEMA relief efforts and, notably, the impact volunteers had on the cleanup effort.