Storm levels homes, businesses in Southwest Missouri
At about 2 p.m. Monday, a storm that might have been a small tornado or microburst hit the Neosho area.
The Pump N' Pantry convenience store was destroyed by the storm. Law enforcement officials said store personnel and customers suffered minor injuries. Those in the store sought shelter in one of the coolers right before the storm hit.
Kelly Nunly was happy to be alive.
“We got stuck in the beer cooler and it was on fire,” said Nunly, a store employee. “And if he (Josh Sinclair, owner of the store) was not in there, we would be dead.
“It went so fast,” Nunly said. “I was scared!”
The National Weather Service has yet to confirm whether the storm was indeed a tornado or microburst.
Several homes in the Ravenhurst subdivision in Neosho were heavily damaged, but no major injuries or deaths have been reported.
The houses at 397 Ravenwood Circle, 401 Ravenwood Circle, 417 Ravenwood Circle and 445 Ravenwood Circle all had heavy damage from the storm. Damage could be seen at other homes, some with windows missing and others with shingles off roofs or holes in siding.
Rick and Tina Douglas live at 445 Ravenwood Circle. Their home suffered major damage, and Rick Douglas called it a total loss.
Rick Douglas was at home when the storm hit. He said he was watching TV when he looked outside his window and saw the trampoline in the backyard lift off the ground and fly through the air. He was not injured during the storm.
That's when he ran down the hallway to the bathroom, jumped in the bathtub and sought shelter, he said. The roof is near gone from the house, and the front wall leading to a child's bedroom is almost entirely missing.
Lawrence and Christine Evans live at 397 Ravenwood Circle, and moved to Neosho from Arizona in the past year.
The garage of the home is destroyed, and the couple's truck was flipped on its side. The living structure of the home suffered damage, and water is leaking inside.
Lawrence Evans was home at the time of the storm, and jumped under the bed to seek shelter with his dog. He was not injured.
All of those at home during the storm said they did not hear storm sirens and had no warning until the storm hit.
The back half of the Neosho Public Works building at 715 N. College St. is now a pile of rubble as a result of the storm.
Public works employee George Pedell was working on a service truck in the garage at the rear of the structure when he said he heard a “loud boom,” like a brick being thrown against the garage door. Then the door was ripped away by winds.
Pedell took cover in front of the truck, away from the open doorway, when he saw the walls of the building start collapsing. He said he quickly scrambled beneath the truck.
“It sounded like somebody just took a can opener and started opening up the roof,” Pedell said.
After the winds passed, Pedell dug himself out from beneath the rubble. He wasn’t injured and said he feels grateful for making it out alive.
“I’ll be saying my prayers tonight,” he said.
Down the street, Neosho resident Etrina Augustine, a native of Micronesia, had watched from her living room window as a sheet of rain and wind swept north on College Street, almost as if it were a solid pane of glass moving forward. Then the rain suddenly stopped.
She said she watched a car driving slowly up the street when it suddenly braked and whipped down a side street. She turned to see what had made the driver flee so quickly and saw a “twirling wind” come down from the sky between her house and the Public Works building. At the same moment, she heard it and the windows began to rattle. Asked what it sounded like, Augustine imitated a whirling, buzzing noise similar to a helicopter landing.
She took cover with her 2-month-old son Troy in the bathtub. The house remained unscathed.
Just south of the convenience store, another business received some damage.
“It looked like a 100-mile-hour straight wind,” said Bob Wiseman, owner of Wiseman Family Tire. “I saw our sign go down. We got a board stuck in the building over there (pointing to the south end of his business)."
John Ford and Rick Rogers of the Neosho Daily News