Little Rock Look Back: Tornado lays waste to parts of Little Rock on January 21, 1999

Image result for january 1999 tornado little rockIn their 5pm and 6pm forecasts, Little Rock TV station meteorologists had warned of the potential for severe weather on the evening of January 21, 1999.

But no one seemed prepared for what happened.

A tornado cut through a huge swath of Little Rock stretching from the southwest portion of the city up through the Quapaw Quarter and beyond.  At least four people died in Pulaski County and over 150 houses were destroyed.

A Harvest Foods collapsed trapping people inside the store as storms pummeled survivors with rain and wind.  Stories were ripped off buildings. Sides of houses were peeled back.  Cars and trees were tossed about as if they were made of papier mache.

While not short-changing all of the devastation throughout the city – and there was a great deal – there were several cultural institutions and historic sites which were hit by this system.

  • A portion of the roof of Daisy Bates’ home was ripped off. Some of her books and papers were sucked up by the wind and scattered throughout the storm’s path.
  • The Governor’s Mansion sustained damage in addition to losing power and phones.
  • The original Fire Station 2 in MacArthur Park, then still serving as a museum storage facility, lost a portion of its roof and sustained water damage
  • The Arsenal Building, in the process of being prepared to become the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History, lost a portion of its roof.  The storm’s impact also set off the sprinkler system in the building causing flooding throughout the interior of the building.
  • The Arkansas Arts Center sustained minor damage. The museum was hosting a reception that night for the opening of an exhibit. Many trees in MacArthur Park fell that evening, including several on cars of patrons present for the party.

It would take months and years for the areas hit by this storm to be rebuilt and recover.

The Museum of Discovery – which would have been impacted by the tornado if it had not relocated to the River Market District two years earlier – has an exhibit which allows persons to relive this night.  Tornado Alley Theater provides a riveting seven-minute experience for museum visitors as they relive the tornado that devastated the Governor’s Mansion district area of downtown Little Rock in January 1999. Hear the stories of people who survived the storm and see TV footage of the event as broadcast on THV 11 that fateful evening.

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TONY AWARDS tonight — Some Arkansas connections

TonyAwards-328x253.328.254The American Theatre Wing and Broadway League present the 67th Antoinette Perry Awards – also known as the Tony Awards – tonight. They will be aired on CBS (THV11 in Central Arkansas) at 7pm CDT.

There are a few Arkansas connections to this year’s nominees of the best of Broadway.

Arkansas natives and previous Tony winners Will Trice and Remmel T. Dickinson are each nominated again this year for producing. Trice is one of the producers of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, nominated for Best Revival of a Play. Dickinson is a producer of Best Musical nominee Matilda. Both of those productions received multiple Tony nominations.

Tony winner Roger Horchow of Texas was married for nearly 50 years to Little Rock native Carolyn Pfeifer, until her 2009 death. Horchow and his daughter Sally are both nominated for producing the revival of Annie which is currently pleasing crowds on Broadway.

Chet Walker is nominated for his choreography for the revival of Pippin. Walker’s parents live in Maumelle. He has been a guest instructor for the Arkansas Dance Network. (Thanks to Christen Burke Pitts–herself an outstanding choreographer–for pointing out this Arkansas connection.)

Japhy Weideman is nominated for Best Lighting Design of a Play for his work on the new play The Nance. This is his first Tony nomination and his first season to be lighting plays on Broadway. He has previously received acclaim for his work Off Broadway. Weideman has been a lighting designer at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre in the past.

One final nominee with an Arkansas connection. A couple of years ago, the Clinton School of Public Service brought actor Holland Taylor to Little Rock to discuss her play Ann about Texas Gov. Ann Richards. At that point in time, Ms. Taylor was performing the play throughout the country, but she did not know if it would be performed in New York. It made it to Broadway this season, and she received a Tony nomination for Actress in a Play for her work.

Whether these nominees win or lose tonight, it is a testament to Little Rock’s cultural richness that there are several nominees this year with connections to The Rock.