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The former JR’s Motor Inn was one of man structures heavily damaged by an EF-2 tornado that struck the Tri-Lakes area early in the morning on Feb. 29, 2012.

It is strange sometimes to look around and realize there is – and for many years now has been – essentially no evidence that a tornado ripped through the heart of Branson on leap day 2012.

That’s amazing when one thinks about it. Before that day, if you had pulled out a map of the Tri-Lakes Area and drawn a line exactly where a tornado would be most visibly devastating, your line would have been close to the actual path of that EF-2 twister.

Yeah, we all know there are still some vacant plots here and there, but really, the obvious signs of destruction are long gone.

It’s a tribute to our community. I remember being in downtown Branson just a few days after the tornado, and I witnessed what I referred to at the time as a beehive of activity. There were saws and hammers and people and lumber everywhere I looked. The city did its part, too, quickly and efficiently inspecting buildings to identify those that were safe and some that were not.

There were a few insurance snags, and perhaps a couple of unmotivated property owners, so a handful of properties sat unrepaired and unrazed for a few years. But those were sparce.

While we mostly talk about the tornado in relation to Branson (We all remember the image of the Hilton with most of its windows blown out), it’s important to remember that persistent little cyclone started west of Kimberling City and didn’t stop until it reached the Powersite area 22 miles away. Homes were destroyed in the areas of Kimberling City and Indian Point, and along 76 Highway through Taney County. The Kimberling Inn and Port of Kimberling were cleaning up along with Branson businesses such as Walmart and Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theater (there were way too many for me to name, or even remember, here).

It could have been worse. There were no fatalities. Tornadoes can be many times larger and can completely devastate communities.

We are fortunate.

Feb. 29 marks the eighth anniversary of that tornado. Or, if you prefer, it marks the second anniversary, being that this is only the second leap year since. While the visible results of the tornado have faded with time, no one should let their tornado diligence dwindle away. The Centers for Disease Control recommends everyone have the following items:

–fresh batteries and a battery-operated TV, radio, or internet-enabled device to listen to the latest emergency weather information;

–a tornado emergency plan including access to a “safe shelter” for yourself and for people with special needs;

–an emergency kit (including water, non-perishable food, and medication); and

–a list of important information, including telephone numbers.

They also recommend you watch for the following weather signs:

–a dark or green-colored sky;

–a large, dark, low-lying cloud;

–large hail; or

–a loud roar that sounds like a freight train.

They also recommend you know where to shelter:

–Go to the basement or an inside room without windows on the lowest floor (bathroom, closet, center hallway).

–Avoid windows.

–For added protection get under something sturdy (a heavy table or workbench). Cover your body with a blanket, sleeping bag or mattress. Protect your head with anything available.

–Do not stay in a mobile home.

The cities of Branson and Hollister each have alert systems one can sign up for to receive texts and/or calls when severe weather is on its way. I use them both, and I can’t recommend them enough.

As we all know, it’s always tornado season, so keep alert.

 

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