The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

June 11, 2011

Wally Kennedy: Survival on Range Line Road — both during and after the storm

JOPLIN, Mo. — It’s time to get back to the business of reporting about Range Line Road.

Over the next few weeks, I will provide as much information as I can about the past, present and future of this commercial strip.

For today, I have decided to concentrate on the Range Line area affected by the tornado that is south of 20th Street. This is by no means a complete report. I will try to include information about what happened when the tornado struck, if it is available from a reliable source.

I can tell you now that hundreds of people are alive today because certain businesses were closed on that Sunday and because the managers of the restaurants that were open knew what to do to save lives.

This is in no particular order.

Jim Bob’s Steak and Ribs was not open when the tornado hit. It is to be demolished and rebuilt with an eye toward preserving the original character of the restaurant. The owners hope to have it reconstructed in six months.

I could not determine whether Casa Montez was open the night of the tornado. The building will survive. A young man who said he is the project manager for the restoration of the restaurant told me: “Casa Montez will come back better than ever.’’

Orange Leaf, a yogurt shop, is in the Range Line Market Place shopping center, which was damaged by the tornado. The shop escaped with little damage. About 10 to 15 people sought shelter in a restroom when the tornado was approaching.

Next door at El Vallarta, about 25 to 30 people sought shelter in a restroom. The restaurant reopened a couple of days after the storm.

Also in that shopping center is McAllister’s Deli. About 10 employees sought shelter in a walk-in cooler. About 20 customers sought shelter in the men’s restroom. A manager insisted that only that restroom be used because it provided the maximum level of protection. The restaurant is open.

At Rib Crib, which has reopened, 10 employees and about 20 customers took cover in a walk-in cooler. A manager risked his life by standing outside of the cooler to make sure the door to it remained closed.

A new roof is going on Red, Hot and Blue.

At Kentucky Fried Chicken, about 15 people sought shelter in an interior room. A manager there insisted that some people on the parking lot come inside. But some people left. It is open.

At Braum’s, employees and customers took shelter in a protected area. A manager there pulled people from the parking lot into the restaurant before the tornado hit. It is open.

Golden Corral has reopened. About 80 people sought shelter in the restaurant’s kitchen, but some could not get there before the storm hit. They hit the deck.

Chick-fil-A was not open when the tornado hit. The building was badly damaged.

The Walgreen’s store has set up a mobile pharmacy. Reconstruction is under way.

By far, I have had more inquiries about Pizza By Stout than any other place on the strip. Joy Stout, the owner, is a longtime friend. I helped her parents, Willard and Betty, launch the restaurant by writing my first food story for the Globe about the unique pizza they served.

About a year ago, Stout made the decision to close the restaurant on Sundays. It is a decision she does not regret. The tornado leveled the place.

“It was graduation weekend. That place would have been packed. I get the shivers thinking about it,’’ she said. “We are searching all options right now. We are searching to see what we can do.

“We are in shock. We go out every day and just stare at it. It was our life.’’

She also praised the search-and-rescue efforts.

“You could not ask for a better team than what we saw. I was very, very impressed.’’

If you have news about something happening on Range Line Road or Main Street, dial 417-623-3480, ext. 7250; or send an e-mail to wkennedy@joplinglobe.com; or send a fax to Wally Kennedy at 417-623-8598.

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