Storms blow through Barry County, leave man dead in Aurora
Storage units in Purdy blown onto train tracks
A severe storm line took residents of Barry and Lawrence counties a bit by surprise early Saturday morning, producing two tornadoes in the area, leaving one person dead and damaging property across the two counties.
According to a National Weather Service report, at about 12:35 a.m. Saturday, an EF-1 tornado led to one fatality in Aurora in Lawrence County. Scott Lakin, Lawrence County coroner, identified the man as Jeremy Lewis, 34, of the Aurora area.
A Weather Service report said the tornado developed west of the water tower and tracked northeast to the USA Inn, then north across Highway 60 before dissipating. The track lasted about half a mile, and winds reached up to 105 miles per hour.
Bonnie Witt-Schulte, Lawrence County Emergency Management Director, said the USA Inn sustained significant damages, with some rooms on the first floor of the two-story building lost.
“We had a report of injuries and a partial structural collapse,” Witt-Schulte said. “As that was proceeding, we started getting calls about the trailer park on Highway 60, downed power lines on the highway and movement into Marionville with less damage.”
Witt-Schulte said Lewis was staying at the hotel and was found outside after the storm. First responders attempted to resuscitate Lewis but were unsuccessful.
Damage to the Aurora area left Highway 60 closed for one-and-a-half hours, and Highway 39 south from Highway 60 was also closed. The tornado traveled from the hotel across Highway 60 to Sutherlands Lumber, then it lifted and produced widespread straight-line winds due northeast to Marionville.
Many vehicles received damage at the Mayes Automotive lot. Company crews moved all the vehicles off the Elliott Street side of the lot and brought in equipment to clear shattered glass.
In Monett, the Southwind Village subdivision off Highway 37 on the south side of Race Brothers saw damages from an EF-0 tornado tracking northwest to Mt. Vernon. At about 12:15 a.m., winds reached up to 80 miles per hour and the tornado with a path width of 25-50 yards tracked 0.1 miles before lifting west of Highway 37, causing a variety of damage. Multiple homes sustained roof damage, and one home, which had recently been build and was vacant, sustained significant structural damage.
At 1203 Aaron Ave., resident Stephanie Cogdill told her three-year-old daughter she could sleep with her mother that night, something Cogdill generally doesn't do. When the storm hit at 12:25 a.m., it shattered the daughter's bedroom window and covered the bed with glass.
At 1204 Aaron Ave., owner Cory Howard described hearing “a giant burst of wind” that lasted 15-20 seconds. Next door, at 1206 Aaron Ave., a large section of roof was torn off. Across the street, a pickup in the driveway at 1205 Aaron received a heavy hit. Howard said neighbors speculated the damage came from the roof.
On the next block to the east at Amanda Avenue, a new home recently finished at 1202 Amanda had the entire roof torn off. The house was not occupied at the time. Bill Schliem, visiting his son, Troy Schliem, across the street, described how pieces from the roof tore into his son's house, shattering a window and knocking a hole in the roof.
Leaders with the Waldensian Presbyterian Church, a half-mile east of the Southwind Village subdivision, responded to a call from police that several windows and the door had been broken from storm winds. Trees on the church grounds were also damaged.
Witt-Schulte said the storm developed so fast, there was no warning issued for Monett.
“There were warnings for Marionville and Aurora,” she said. “We started getting Monett damage reports when the Aurora warning came out.”
In Purdy, straight-line winds blew over a set of storage units, falling to rest on the nearby train tracks near Highway C but leaving the contents of each unit stacked in its place on the concrete slab.
“We had to call Burlington Northern and stop the trains until we removed the debris,” Witt-Schulte said.
Purdy resident Connie Goetz was on scene the Saturday afternoon with Mike Goetz and Steve Fare trucking off salvageable belongings from her unit containing her mother’s and father’s belongings, put in storage after their passing in February.
“Mike was at church when we got the call [Saturday] morning from the owner saying there was damage,” Connie Goetz said. “We live about a mile east of here and I got up because of the wind being so loud, but I would have never guessed it was this bad.”
Witt-Schulte also asked for anyone with damage to make a report with the dispatch center by calling 417-235-4241 ext. 2.