For many people in Jonesboro, Arkansas, a small city 70 miles northwest of Memphis, the results of a tornado that touched ground across five miles of town Saturday seem like a miracle.
There were no fatalities and no missing persons to report, officials announced after a search and rescue mission was completed Sunday morning.
And though 22 people were hurt, Jonesboro Police Chief Rick Elliott described each of their injuries as "non-life-threatening."
But for homeowner Ann York, who spoke while attempting to salvage what she could from a home filled with debris and furniture she's still paying off, the tornado has been devastating.
"It's horrible," York said of the neighborhood where she's lived for years. "Everything, all the homes are gone. People are hurt. It's just sad."
Her sister and extended family were on hand to help York dig out her car, which was coated in insulation that the tornado had ripped from the attic.
York couldn't get through to her insurance company, with phone calls going to an office that's been closed by the coronavirus crisis. But she eventually tracked her agent down through Facebook.
She's lived through tornadoes before but never experienced a direct hit until Saturday's storm, which was rated as an EF-3 with max winds of 140 mph, according to the National Weather Service.
"My subdivision is all wiped out," York said. "I gotta get outta here."
Facing the unknown
Brian Milligan, 35, lived with his wife and three kids in a house in the same neighborhood as York and his mother-in-law since 2011.
All three houses are now destroyed.
"It's the unknown that is the scariest," Milligan said via text message. "Just waiting to find out what insurance will do."
Like many of his neighbors, Milligan's family has been sifting through the remnants of their home.
Janie Wewers rushed back Sunday morning to her property – where her SUV had been pushed into the kitchen and a couch was dangling between the first and second floors.
She was hoping to find her purse, and she did with the help of her daughter-in-law.
Wewers' son had also been by to help his mom immediately after the storm – before reporting to work to help repair the many power lines the tornado felled around town.
Wewers' family is now trying to salvage all that remains of her house.
"We're trying to get things packed up and go through things – while we still got daylight hours," she said.
'Like a bomb struck'
The tornado tore through a swath of town, encompassing the airport and mall in addition to residential areas.
Bill Campbell, spokesperson for the city of Jonesboro, said the city has heard from Governor Asa Hutchinson, who declared Jonesboro a disaster Sunday evening.
"It looks like in some places a bomb struck. Our airport is totaled. Our mall, we don't know the structural integrity at this point," Campbell said. "But some of it is devastated beyond recognition."
At the 1,000-acre airport site, a handful of small planes were barely distinguishable from piles of torn and twisted metal that were previously aircraft hangars.
The municipal airport typically operates at least three commercial flights per day to St. Louis, according to the airport website.
On Sunday, a giant strip of corrugated metal was the only thing on the runway. A small plane lay in the grass nearby with a wing snapped off.
In the same part of town, a derailed 900-foot train lay on its side Sunday afternoon.
The response initially involved hazmat gear as a precaution, Rachel Carmack, spokesperson for the Jonesboro police, said. But the train's spilled contents were deemed not hazardous late Saturday evening, she said.
'A pretty good miracle'
All things considered, Campbell thinks the town had a lucky break, although there is much work ahead.
"When you lost your mall and your airport, that's a pretty good miracle right there," he said, referring to the limited human toll.
The response is in triage mode now, he said, and help for homeowners will be a little bit down the road.
The expected disaster declaration will open up a state funding stream, however, and the city's grants department is searching for opportunities, Campbell said.
"There's a whole lot to do right now," he said.
Milligan shares in the sentiment of good fortune the damage wasn't any worse.
"Everyone is safe," he said of his family. "The bathroom they hunkered down in was untouched. But the rest of the house was destroyed," he said. "The house can be rebuilt, and we all still have our lives."
Milligan and city officials alike credited the many first responders from around the region who came out in force.
Tim Rollings, 30, was one of them, a firefighter of five years. He's also been a homeowner, for seven years, in the residential area hardest hit.
Rollings worked nonstop through the evening after the tornado hit and spoke with The CA by phone after he'd returned to the property without sleep.
"It's just hard to be at work and respond to other people's houses when you know your house is destroyed, too," he said.
"My house is still standing, but the ones right next to it are completely gone."
The city offered residents overnight shelter and public transit to get there Saturday. But those affected must have stayed with loved ones, police spokeswoman Rachel Carmack said, as the shelters went largely unused.
Still, Campbell said the community faces a long road ahead. "We've had five miles right through the heart of our society destroyed," he said.
According to Census data, the median income in Jonesboro is approximately $44,000, and 20% of people live in poverty.
So far, Campbell said, the "outpouring" of support has been "remarkable" – and he encourages it to continue.
A hotline for donations has been set up at 870-935-5562, and the Red Cross is accepting cash donations for Jonesboro residents. "They're needed," Campbell said.
Sarah Macaraeg is an award-winning journalist who writes investigations, features and the occasional news story for The Commercial Appeal. She can be reached at [email protected], 901-529-2889 or on Twitter @seramak.