EF-1 tornado confirmed in Wheaton
Twister on ground for 12 miles with wind speeds of 110 miles per hour
The National Weather Service in Springfield has confirmed an EF-1 tornado struck the Wheaton area April 30, damaging businesses, homes and utilities in the city.
Damage to the area included the Southwest Auction Services LLC, Dollar General, homes and multiple trees and power poles. The twister started in Stella and was on the ground for 12 miles with a 0.5-mile-wide path, lifting about 5 miles northeast of Wheaton. Wind speeds maxed out at 110 miles per hour.
“We had just finished that addition,” said Shayla Stehlik, Southwest Auction Services, LLC manager. “We finished the concrete pouring in October 2018 and have been working it constantly, until now.”
Stehlik said the final walk-through was scheduled for Monday, but the agent never showed up, so the addition wasn’t added into the company’s insurance.
The Weather Service also confirmed an EF-0 tornado hit the McDowell and Pleasant Ridge area on April 30 at 4:25 p.m., starting five miles northeast of Purdy and traveling on the ground for 5 miles while destroying several outbuildings and uprooting trees along a 200-yard-wide path.
Jean Prevo, who lives approximately a quarter mile south of Highway Z on Highway VV in Pleasant Ridge, recalled looking out her window as the storm hit. She said historically, storms go over Pleasant Ridge, but this time the storm, though making no particular sound, unleashed a blast of wind and rain that made her step back.
"There goes the tree," her husband, Larry, said just then, as a tree in their front yard toppled, pulled up with a root ball.
A second tree fell from the neighbor's house over the Prevo's fence line into their yard. A third fell on the hillside above the house. A fourth fell across the street, barely missing a modular home. Utility lines fell and a pole snapped just east of the Highway Z and PP junction.
The Prevos' neighbors, within minutes, were out with chainsaws and reopened the family's driveway. One of the neighbors explained they took necessary steps to take care of each other, especially with Larry Prevo on oxygen.
Ongoing overnight rains also led to flooding in areas of Barry County.
According to David Compton, Barry County emergency management director, Flat Creek crested at 14 feet in Jenkins Wednesday morning before starting to recede.
“Flat Creek was up 10 feet in 10 hours, rising at a foot per hour overnight,” Compton said.
Roaring River crested at 7 feet overnight, leading to evacuations of the park at about 1:45 a.m., but was down to about 4 feet by Wednesday at 10 a.m.
“There was some flooding in Cassville overnight by the old Jump Stop and Dollar General,” Compton said. “Most flood water over roads have receded, but there is a lot of debris in the road.”
Law enforcement also reported brief touchdown of tornado three miles southeast of Exeter at about 6:50 p.m. April 30.
Bonnie Witt-Schulte, Monett-Lawrence County 911/Emergency Management director, said as of Wednesday morning, there were no significant flood issues to report. Damage reports from April 30 included the following:
• 4763 State Hwy. 39 in Miller, multiple trees and powerlines; car with powerline pole with active power lines
• 12414 Hwy. DD in Miller, power lines down next to damaged propane tanks
• Dunn and Gilmore in Miller, power poles down
• 212 S Johnson in Miller, damage to trees; possible structure damage
• North of 20150 on Highway 39 in Miller, house with extensive damage
• 88 Hwy. UU in Lockwood, numerous trees down; damage to structure with individuals trapped but no injuries (family relocated by Red Cross)
• Highway Z in Pleasant Ridge area, trees and power poles down
• Intersection of Highways Z and V, trees and power poles down
• 18900 Farm Road 2032 in Monett, house with extensive structural damage described as “half gone”
• Highway 37 about one mile south of Purdy, large trees down damaging power poles and lines
• Downtown Cassville west of the courthouse square, multiple trees and limbs down; structure damage to at least one home
• The Cassville Greenway Trail sustained damage to the gravel surface on the trail and there is tree limb debris; use restrictions are in effect until possibly May 8
Compton said there is also a chance for severe storms again Wednesday afternoon.
Compton added for future storms, county residents should pay attention to which frequency their weather radios should be set to, as there are multiple used for Barry and Lawrence counties.
“All of Barry County is covered by at least one or two NOAA weather radio transmitter sites,” he said. “Each site broadcasts the recorded forecast information, weather watches and warnings, as well as the weekly and monthly tests from the NWS Warning Forecast Office (WFO) in Springfield (SGF). Since all watches and warnings for Barry County are issued by WFO-SGF, it is important residents have the correct channel selected on their weather radio.”
The transmitters that serve Barry and Lawrence counties include:
• Cassville, countywide, 162.500 MHz
• Neosho, western Barry County and southwest Lawrence County, 162.450 MHz
• Avilla, north of Cassville to county line and central Lawrence County from southern border to northern border, 162.425 MHz
• Branson, eastern Barry County, 162.550 MHz
• Fordland, eastern Lawrence County, 162.400 MHz
The first round of severe storms, what the National Weather Service anticipated would be several, crossed Barry and Lawrence counties on April 30 afternoon, bringing rain, hail and tornadoes to the vicinity.
Storm sirens began sounding in Monett around 4 p.m. as the first wave of storms crossed the area. They hit in the Miller area around 4:15 p.m., bringing half-dollar sized hail in places. That storm moved east into the Halltown and Ash Grove area.
A second wave of storms approximately a half-hour later moved from the Seneca area around the west of Neosho, continuing into the Wheaton area, where dramatic scenes the tornado on the ground were recorded.
“There were some very interesting looking wall clouds, very large rotating wall clouds," Compton said.
Compton reported downed trees resulted in numerous road blocks. Crews from the Missouri Department of Transportation, four or five fire departments and the Barry Electric Co-op went to the area to attempt to reopen the roadways as soon as possible.
The storm proceeded to the northeast, brushing Purdy before marching across Pleasant Ridge and into the Verona area. Quarter-sized hail was reported a mile south of Monett.
A third band of storms rolled across southern Barry County, from Seligman at the state line through Viola and into Shell Knob. Compton reported numerous carports were flipped in the Shell Knob area and power lines down. This storm carried rainfall in the 2- to 2.5-inch range, while the first round of storms brought only an inch to Monett.
Sirens were also sounded in Cassville shortly before 7 p.m. for a severe thunderstorm that developed rotation. According to a Service report, the storm developed into an EF-0 tornado that tracked from two miles south-southwest of Cassville to one mile west-northwest of Cassville. The path was intermittent, lasting 1.89 miles and reaching a max width of 75 yards.
The storm caused large trees to be downed or damaged, and one large tree fell and damaged a house.