Don't expect Kathy Mishler to stop smoking anytime soon. Her "bad habit" proved to be a lifesaver on Monday night as Kathy, her husband, Joe, and their daughter decided to leave their double-wide mobile home at Midway and walk to the nearby convenience store to purchase a carton of cigarettes.
The family of three arrived at the store just in time to see a funnel cloud forming to the southwest. They proceeded to wait out the tornado in one of the convenience store's coolers.
"We heard a loud whistling sound and then nothing," said Jim. "We decided the tornado was over and we went out to see what had happened. There was nothing to see, because there was nothing left."
When the Mishlers returned to their home, they found it leveled. It seems their choice to buy cigarettes saved their lives.
"I told my mom I'd try to quit but now I don't think I will," said Kathy.
On Tuesday morning, the Mishlers returned home to sift through the debris for anything they might salvage.
"We're finding odds and ends but not much," said Jim.
The family did retrieve their parrot and a pet rabbit from the rubble. A pair of pugs are still at large.
"We saw them after the tornado but we weren't unable to get to them," said Kathy. "They were really scared and ran away. We knew where they were but a sheriff's deputy made us leave (before we could get the dogs) because another tornado was heading our way."
According to Kathy, one of the pugs is blind.
Help from the American Red Cross arrived on Tuesday morning with a crew from Joplin offering hot coffee, food and temporary shelter. A damage assessment team was scheduled to arrive later in the day.
The Mishlers are currently staying with family and say the outpouring of support they have received is overwhelming.
"Everybody has their doors open for us," said Jim.