It was about 7 p.m. on March 6 when it hit. The loud whirring sound notified Allison Smith, Art History Chair and professor, and her family of the F2 tornado in their backyard. There was no siren. There wasn’t even a tornado warning for the south Leawood area. No one was hurt in the Leawood tornado, though Smith’s home, as well as a few of her neighbors’ homes, suffered severe damage.
“We were all just standing in our kitchen family room area just minutes after my daughter walked in the door, and we just literally heard this enormous sound,” Smith said. “It would be like a sound if there was a cement mixer driving down your street. Just this loud, loud, strange sound. I can’t really describe it. It was just very, very loud. We just literally all looked at each other. We didn’t need to say a word. We all just knew we were about to be hit by a tornado. There was just no doubt about it.”
The tornado was one of 53 that hit the midwest on March 6. According to weather.com, a dozen injuries were reported in Oak Grove, Missouri, after an EF3 tornado touched down and tracked nearly 12 miles around 8 p.m. In Trimble, Missouri, multiple homes were damaged by an EF2 tornado. Significant damage occurred north of the Kansas City metro area Monday evening near Trimble, Plattsburg and Lathrop in Missouri from an EF2 tornado with estimated winds around 132 mph.
“We were looking back through the live radar and seeing when the supercell [a thunderstorm with a deep, persistently rotating updraft] started,” Nick Bender, first alert meteorologist for KMBC, said. “It actually started in Johnson County and dropped that real big baseball- sized hail in Eudora and near DeSoto and there was wind damage at Executive, that Johnson County there, there at the airport there. That wasn’t a tornado. That was just straight lined wind, but it was going about 80 to 90 mph so it probably did the same amount of damage a small tornado would. And then we watched that supercell, when the supercell crossed the Johnson County line into Jackson County and prompted the tornado warning in Lees Summit.”
Bender was in a storm tracker vehicle just a mile from the tornado chasing the storm. He caught a video of the tornado hitting Oak Grove, going through power lines, alerting everyone in the area to head to safety.
“We were about a mile and change [from the tornado,] so we got really close,” Bender said. “I don’t like the be that close just because you become part of the warning. You can’t help the warning, but it was night and moving at 60 mph and that’s just the way it wound up. I was fortunate that we had interstate 70 so we could go 70 mph straight East and I had good options to get away from that tornado. But, it’s so important to get that video out because you just know that a siren in a warning in the midwest to get people to go to their basement, stop making dinner, stop watching TV and go to their tornado shelter”
Bender and his team went back to the tornado site in Oak Grove the next morning to talk to people about their experience. According to what many of the residents told him, his live footage is what got them to take action.
“I had one woman come up to me and started crying, and I just gave me a big ol’ hug,” Bender said. “You don’t say anything, you just hug. The neighborhoods that were destroyed, to me, it looks like it was always like that. This wasn’t a neighborhood. There weren’t kids riding their bicycles before the sun went down. There weren’t lights and people walking their dogs and stuff. This was the way it always was. It was always destroyed. It is a very disturbing feeling. You can smell fresh cut wood. There’s stuff strewn all over the place that shouldn’t be there. People are just walking around dazed and confused. It’s rough, but it’s rough for them. It is rough to see it, but [when we go back out] it’s about them.”
KMBC has posted a relief fund on their website at http://www.kmbc.com/article/heres-how-you-can-help-oak-grove-tornado-victims/9104436
Donations can be dropped off at the Independence Community Services League located at 404 N. Noland Road from 8 am to noon and from 1-5 pm, Monday – Friday. Donations will also be accepted at the Blue Springs office and Grain Valley office on Wednesday. The Blue Springs office is located at 200 SW 10th Street , Blue Springs and the Grain Valley office located at 207 W Walnut Street, Grain Valley.