History As It Happens: The March 31, 2023, Tornado Outbreak

The March 31, 2023, tornado outbreak had a devastating effect on central Arkansas as well as other parts of the state. Many lives were impacted, and the staff members here at the Central Arkansas Library System feel for those who have experienced such devastation.

It is important at times like this that we make an effort to document such a tragic event, so that future generations will have a better understanding of what our communities went through. In that spirit, the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies at the CALS Roberts Library encourages members of our community to document their experiences during this time of crisis so we can add the material to our collection for future research. We have undertaken similar efforts to capture “History as It Happens” in archiving materials submitted for the 2019 Arkansas River Flood, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

CALS Butler Center/Roberts Library Community Outreach Archivist Danielle Afsordeh says of the effort, “We hope that this project will help people process and share their experiences, and that we will be able to capture not only photographs and video, but also creative endeavors like poetry, journals, music, and art. Once we make submitted material accessible, the submissions will serve the dual purpose of helping library users connect to our community’s experience and archiving material for future historians to interpret the event’s impact.”

Do you have before and after views of damaged sites? Have you written about your experience in a diary or taken part in recovery efforts and documented the storm’s destruction and the cleanup effort? Did anyone call and leave you a voicemail during their experience in the storm? Can you screenshot images of your Instagram stories or Snapchat to share? Did you share anything via TikTok?

We are looking for materials such as journal entries, photographs, poetry, oral history interviews, artwork, video, etc.

We are also inviting community members to take part in a questionnaire to further document their experiences during this historic event. How are you responding to the tornado? How has your life been affected? We want to know.

For those affected by the storms, CALS Storm Recovery Resources are available here: https://cals.org/storm-recovery


By ten days after the storm, the Butler Center had received 139 photographs and five completed questionnaire forms and has been receiving more materials almost daily. The photos in this post were taken on Cobble Hill Road in Little Rock by Nate Thomas, in the Walnut Valley neighborhood in Little Rock by Maryann Jones and David Lewis, and on Longwood Road in Cammack Village in Little Rock by Danielle Afsordeh.

Visit the project page here to submit your own materials.







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