As I sat at the computer during the night, in the early A.M. of February 29, 2012, as the wind blew outside, I heard the tornado siren go off about a mile north on the Branson 76 strip. I checked the weather online: Tornado in Kimberling City heading east at 70 mph. We live east of Kimberling City!
Ever since the tornado scene in "The Wizard of Oz" began a life of recurring nightmares, I've wanted to see an actual tornado. So I hurried outside to try to see it. The storm felt different. Ominous. And as I gazed west at the black sky, as the wind became stronger and stronger, I imagined a huge tornado suddenly coming at me at 70 mph, and it creeped me out. I ran back inside and woke up my wife Micki and asked her if she thought we should wake everybody up and go to the basement. Instead, we let everyone sleep but our youngest son Andy, and the three of us stood at the doorway trying to see the tornado, as our house lights flickered and our phone service went out. Rain had started to pour, and there were eerie flashes of aqua-blue light we had never seen before in any storm. But as hard as we watched for it, we never saw the tornado only a mile off to our left as it, like millions of tourists do each year, drove up Branson's 76 Country Boulevard.
Here's the tornado that made a nine-mile straight line through Branson, Missouri, that night.
The damage was terrible, and as I write this, Branson is a disaster area with a dusk to dawn curfew to prevent looting of the many businesses that are laid open to the weather. For example, here is a picture of Nature's Sunshine, our favorite health food store. Along with it, the whole little shopping center it was in is demolished, including Mazzio's Pizza, darn it.
Both the workplaces of our son Sam and daughter Glory are damaged, so they're temporarily out of work, just as Glory is moving into her first house and badly needing money. The street her house is on, College Street, is a disaster, too, with many damaged homes. The Taney County Library, across her street, is damaged and will be closed for some time. Surprisingly her house (she had spent the previous day cleaning it) is unscathed, but a tree crushed the metal storage shed in her backyard.
Here's how close the tornado came to us. The red line marks the path of the twister, right along the Strip. The black star a mile south of it marks our house.
To my knowledge, no one was killed by the tornado in the Branson area, although this was one of seven tornados in this Midwest storm, and thirteen deaths are reported. Our fatalities here looked more like this:
Many nearby businesses we frequented are gone or damaged, including our two favorite supermarkets, Walmart, Taco Bell, McDonald's, Maggie Moo's, etc. etc. And these were the more fortunate ones, that can be repaired. I don't like seeing the aftermath of a tornado. It's not fun. But it is encouraging to see how people pull together to help in a crisis like this. But meanwhile, I still haven't seen a tornado!
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