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25 years since a deadly tornado swept through the River Valley

On April 21, 1996, an F3 tornado hit Fort Smith at 11:12 p.m. and later hit the Van Buren area.

FORT SMITH, Ark. — 25 years ago, a deadly tornado barreled through the River Valley with wind speeds up to 200 miles per hour.

On April 21, 1996, the F3 tornado hit Fort Smith at 11:12 p.m. and later hit the Van Buren area. The tornado was a half-mile wide and hit portions of Garrison Avenue and neighborhoods on both sides of the Arkansas River.

The tornado reportedly knocked down telephone lines that would have carried word to emergency workers to start the sirens. Two children were killed in the storm's wake; two-year-old Angelica Flemming and 5-year-old Kyle Johnson. More than 40 others were also injured that night. 

The weather service said the tornado tracked a path that was 7-miles-long, leaving debris and millions of dollars worth of damage behind. 

The Federal Emergency Management Agency estimated about 1,800 homes and businesses were either damaged or destroyed in the River Valley.

After the twister tore through Fort Smith and Van Buren, the same supercell produced another tornado in Madison County, which killed two more people.

Three days after the tornado, the Eads Brothers Furniture building on Garrison Avenue was destroyed in a massive fire. 

The building had sustained a lot of damage from the deadly storm days earlier and was flooded due to roof damage, rain and a broken water main. The fire marshal said the cause of the fire was because of a transformer in the basement that had sparked from the building being flooded from the storm.

To watch video segments produced by KFSM and distributed on VHS in the days after the storm, click here.

RELATED: Mountainburg residents reflect three years after an EF2 tornado tore through the town

RELATED: On this day in history: 24 years ago a deadly tornado swept through the River Valley

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