MONETTE, Ark. – A nursing home in the northeast Arkansas town of Monette was hit by a tornado during Friday night’s severe weather outbreak.
Barbara Richards, a nurse who works at Monette Manor, said the owner of the facility called minutes before the twister hit to warn them of the coming storm.
"Our owner called before they ever had the sirens go off, and told us to start putting them in the safe place," Richards told FOX Weather Multimedia Journalist Hunter Davis on Saturday. "We did – got them all in the safe place."
Richards said that meant moving patients into the halls, crowding around nurses’ stations, closing fire doors and covering them with pillows and blankets.
She said she knew there was trouble when she looked through one of the rooms and saw the wind swirling outside the window.
"I said, ‘Cover up! Cover up! Here we go!" Richards said.
She said the ferocious winds pulled pillows and blankets from the residents' hands and staff had to resort to using their bodies to shield them from debris.
"I had to hold on to them, and have them start saying a prayer, start singing, anything to get them to calm down," Richards said.
The ferocious winds ripped the roof from parts of the building and twisted the metal and wood inside, but a Christmas wreath hanging on the outside of the building was untouched.
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"I called the owner and told him that we’d been hit, we were hit bad, and we needed help," Richards said.
She said that was when help from not only Monette but also surrounding towns started showing up.
Residents were eventually relocated to a sister facility in a neighboring town, Richards said. The staff isn’t sure where they will be working until the company figures out what to do with Monette Manor.
According to officials, a person died at the nursing home during the storm. That was one of the two deaths that happened in Arkansas during the tornado outbreak.