by Valerie Verkamp
Standing in the middle of what little remains of their once two-story home in Smithville, Gerald Mayberry and Dena Smith say they are surprised they made it out alive.
Their home was the hardest hit from the tornado that ripped through the Diamond Crest subdivision, near Highway 169 and Missouri W intersection Monday evening about 7:30 p.m.
The vicious circular winds extracted the entire first floor of their home, along with all their treasured possessions. Pieces of their scaffolding and furniture are scattered across nearby yards and fields.
“My brand-new stove is pinned high in the tree in the back yard,” said Smith. “You think of the intense force to throw a stove into a tree. It is amazing that we weren't hurt.”
Experts from the National Weather Service are calling the tornado an EF-2, with peak winds at an estimated 132 miles per hour.
Like many Smithville residents, Mayberry and Smith are thankful they were warned before the tornado violently swept through their neighborhood.
When the sirens sounded just after 7 p.m., Smith said she headed straight downstairs. But Mayberry, on the other hand, wanted to catch a glimpse of what was brewing outside before taking shelter.
“I have been here long enough and I can usually go outside to tell if something is really going on.”
Just outside his garage, Mayberry said everything was calm for a moment before the weather suddenly became fierce.
“We had a real heavy downpour followed by a whistling noise that I have never heard before,” he said.
Mayberry raced back inside to seek shelter in the basement bathroom. And within the next 60 seconds, he said everything blew up.
Mayberry grasped the bathroom door for support, but the door's hinges gave way to the relentless pull of the tornado. He said he threw his body into the shower and held on as tight as he could.
Nearby, Smith was tucked behind a basement wall separating her from the utility closet. As the walls collapsed in around her, she was struck over and over on the head.
“It was a little scary for three to four minutes,” said Mayberry. “It sounded like a freight train and then an explosion. The next thing I look up and everything is gone.”
Fortunately, no one was seriously injured.
The couple said their daughter reminded them this morning that material things can be replaced and the important thing is no one lost their life from the violent rotating winds.
Mayberry and Smith have lived in Smithville in the 19500 block of Paradise Circle for the past 16 years and plan to rebuild. They are anxiously waiting to hear back from their insurance provider, American Family, and begin that process.
The family has homeowner's insurance and full coverage on both vehicles.
At least one of their vehicles does appear driveable, even after it was struck by a neighbor's flying storage unit.
So far, the couple praised the response level they have received from police, neighbors and city officials.
Police Chief Jason Lockridge told The Landmark he was thankful nobody was injured.
“From what we can tell, everyone did heed the warnings and sought shelter,” said Lockridge. “That is probably a good reason why we didn't have injuries.”
“The tornado damaged 60 to 70 houses. About four to six houses sustained major structural damage and are uninhabitable,” he added.
Toppled trees, blown down fences and ripped off rooftop shingles were among the most common forms of damage.
The National Weather Service was on hand Tuesday assessing the damage to determine the scale of the tornado. Preliminary results indicate it was an EF-2 tornado with a wind speed of an estimated 132 miles per hour.
In the meantime, in this town of about 9,000, Chief Lockridge said residents are helping each other pick up the pieces.
“One of the most impressive things to see once it was all done last night was neighbors helping neighbors. They cleared debris out of the roadways, they were checking on each other and even helping locate cats and dogs that got loose. It was humbling to see,” said Lockridge.