SMITHVILLE — Residents coming together to help one another has become the silver lining to the literal gray cloud that brought an EF-2 tornado with 132-mile-per-hour winds ripping through Smithville Monday, March 6, damaging 125 to 150 homes.
Smithville Police Chief Jason Lockridge, who is working with the city’s fire protection district, Clay County Emergency Management and utility companies to clean up the mess, said Diamond Crest, Lake Meadows and Harbor Lake subdivisions in the northern portion of the city near the intersection of Route W and U.S. 169, were hit the hardest. The epicenter hit Diamond Crest, leaving some houses leveled and other uninhabitable for some time. The cleanup process may take months, he told aldermen during their Tuesday, March 7, meeting.
Despite the mess, Lockridge said he is thankful people heeded the warning sirens, which sounded about 15 minutes before the tornado hit. Because of that, he said, there were no fatalities or serious injuries.
The tornado touched down in Smithville around 7:30 p.m. Monday.
“We heard the wind picking up and then, all of a sudden, we heard a bunch of snapping, so we went to the basement. ... We heard more snapping and then that’s when we heard the window blow out,” said Mike Deyoung, a resident of Harbor Lake, of the storm that ripped through the metro area and Northland causing heavy rain, large hail and wind gusts causing minor to moderate residential damage to houses in his subdivision.
His wife, Leah, said their family, which lives in the 1300 block of Northeast 196th Street, was lucky because they sustained minimal damage including a missing outdoor appliance and furniture.
“We still can’t find our grill ... or the porch swing,” she said.
Two houses in the Diamond Crest subdivision were leveled, with many others along Diamond Court and Diamond Lane sustaining severe damage in the form of exterior walls blowing out, roofs ripped off houses, sheds blown on top of vehicles, trees torn down and debris from all over the area ripping through yards, fences, vehicles and windows.
Tracy Watson said the experience was dumbfounding.
“I was the only one home and was there watching a movie, so, of course, I had no clue what was going on. Then, my phone sounded an alert so I turned on the news. They were saying that it was heading this way and that if we get hail, it’s really close. Well, I didn’t get any hail, so I didn’t think much about it,” she said. “Then, I was standing at the back window and the wind started picking up and it was straight-force wind. I grabbed two dogs and then starting going downstairs. I went down about two steps, and that’s when the windows starting blowing out.”
Watson said she made it partially down the stairs when the wind gusts started lifting part of roof off the walls of her green, single-family home.
“At that point, I let go of the dogs because I thought I had to save myself. We made it down, and that’s when it happened. It was around 7:30 or so,” she said.
Watson said the storm stopped as quickly as it started.
“It just got really quiet all of a sudden. I was just down there thinking, ‘OK, should I get up? Is it safe? Then I got up and came upstairs. ... It wasn’t until I got to the upstairs when I realized there wasn’t a wall anymore,” she said of the exterior wall of her child’s room.
The storm ripped through the room and the house’s right side, littering the neighborhood with possessions including CDs, DVDs, clothing, furniture and a TV.
Although her house sustained heavy damage, Watson is thankful relatives weren’t at home.
“I’m just missing one cat,” she said.
Angela Reed lives across from Watson and other houses that sustained the most damage in the 800 block of Diamond Court.
“We just heard taps on the window and then, ‘Errrrtttt.’ By that time our ears had started to pop, and we grabbed everything and ran downstairs,” Reed said. “By the time we got there, it was over us.”
The property of Reed’s neighbor Jennifer Routh sustained heavy damage including trees being ripped up, a trampoline and privacy fence shredded, and a deck that once led to a pool demolished.
Despite the massive damage, Routh like many in the subdivision, were upbeat the following day.
“This is just stuff. It can be replaced,” Routh said, adding that she is grateful no one was injured.
Ray Cyr, who responded to his mother’s and step-father’s residence at 800 Diamond Court on Monday night, found the house leveled.
Cyr said both his mother, Diane Mann, and her husband, Max Mann, were in the house went the storm hit.
“They both were able to get out alright though,” he said.
Although their property was destroyed, Cyr said his relatives were safe.
“That’s all that matters,” he said.
Because they were safe, Cyr and his family, although digging through debris for personal belongings, remained positive.
“It’s actually kind of funny. They were in the basement already because they were watching wrestling — we love wrestling. So they were already down there when it hit. So today we were joking and saying that wrestling might have actually saved your life,” he said.
The quick action of people coming together to help their neighbors and willingness of volunteers has been overwhelming, Lockridge said. Mayor Brian Fullmer, Alderman Ed Holicky and City Administrator Steve Garrett agreed, giving kudos at the aldermanic meeting to all of those who dedicated time this week to the effort.
“To see the way the community came together ... I’ve been here for 20 years, and I’ve never seen anything like it,” Lockridge said while getting emotional. “... I was quite impressed. It makes me quite proud to work and live here in Smithville.”