CARL JUNCTION, Mo. — Isaiah Basye, of Carl Junction, stood Thursday morning in front of what was left of his family’s home on Turf Lane in Briarbrook while a team of volunteers cut up the downed trees scattered throughout the yard.
“We’re just trying to collect essentials,” Basye said over the noise of chain saws. “Some of my ceiling is caving in. We just moved into the house in August. This was our forever home.”
An EF3 tornado with wind speeds up to 140 mph ravaged the Briarbrook community at about 8 p.m. Wednesday, the same day as the eight-year anniversary of the Joplin tornado. The National Weather Service will be in Southwest Missouri throughout the week at various locations surveying for tornado damage.
The weather service office in Springfield said the Carl Junction tornado had a maximum width of a quarter of a mile and was on the ground for 14 minutes. There were a total of four confirmed tornadoes Wednesday evening in Southwest Missouri and Southeast Kansas. Delmar Haase, Carl Junction police chief, said they were fortunate to not to have had any reports of fatalities or serious injuries.
Isaiah and his wife, Autumn, had been bathing their two children before the storms hit the area. The two said they had no idea what was heading their way because they don’t watch television and their phones weren’t functioning at the time.
“My wife got this gut feeling and said we should go to our neighbor’s underground storm shelter (across the street),” Basye said. “I wasn’t planning on doing anything. When we came outside, it was super chill. There was no wind or rain. It was barely even sprinkling.”
His wife began receiving text messages from friends asking if they were all right, and that’s when they knew to seek shelter immediately. This was the family’s first time experiencing a tornado so close to home.
“We were in the shelter for 10 minutes, and it was the most intense (barometric) pressure I’ve ever felt,” Basye said. “The guy who lives there has been through three tornadoes and was updating us. He said, ‘We’re in it. We’re in a tornado.’ So we were kind of like 'OK.' I didn’t expect to see this when we came out," he said, pointing to the wreckage.
Their garage, kitchen and library were destroyed, leaving only half a house standing. Basye said if they had sought shelter in their crawl space, they would’ve been trapped. The wooden playground in the backyard remained perfectly intact, while a huge tree about 20 feet away had been ripped out by its roots.
Despite the fact that much of his home was destroyed, Basye kept his spirits high. He plans to rebuild and was covered by insurance.
"It's just stuff,” Basye said. “We'll move on. It happens. I’m not too frazzled by it.”
Gov. Mike Parson visited Carl Junction around 2 p.m. Thursday after touring Jefferson City and Eldon, which were also struck by tornadoes Wednesday. Parson spoke with homeowners who were affected by the storm, giving them words of encouragement and asking them to reach out if they ever need any assistance.
“Everyone seems to be in pretty good spirits as I walk around today,” Parson said. “One of the things I’ve totally been impressed with all day long is about people helping one another, and I think that’s one of the things that makes me so proud to be the governor of the state of Missouri.”
The Briarbrook Golf Course served as an access point for the hundreds of volunteers and residents who were in need of supplies, water or food. Organizations such as the American Red Cross and Convoy of Hope also set up shop in the golf course parking lot. The pool house sustained roof damages, but Jim Hackney, president of the Community Improvement District Board, said the focus continues to be on helping affected residents.
“The tornado hit Ward 3, which is the Community Improvement District,” Hackney said. “We felt like this was a central location for people to come volunteer and (spread) out to the families in need. We gave out over a thousand meals.”
Clark’s Cuisine, a Joplin catering company, began preparing free meals for the community at 3 a.m. and parked in front of the course clubhouse. Mickel Clark, chef and executive owner, said Carl Junction is close to employees' hearts and as soon as they found out about the tornado, they immediately began thinking of ways they could help. By noon, the business had already served over 400 meals, and Clark said they expected to serve around 1,200 meals by the end of the day.
"We set up a breakfast buffet this morning, and we set up a food trailer where we gave out free food until it was gone," he said. "We'll probably come back again over the next couple of days. I've got people making sandwiches for those without power. We're just doing our part. Everyone has to help each other in times of need. We saw it eight years ago with the Joplin tornado, and this was definitely a wake-up call, being on the anniversary. We have to remember that we're better together."
Don King, chief of the Disaster Response Team with Christ's Community United Methodist Church in Joplin, brought about 30 volunteers to help Briarbrook residents. The team was created after the May 22, 2011, Joplin tornado, which killed 161 people.
"It's always a mixed blessing to help people after a time like this because we hate to see the damage, but we're glad that we can come in and be of service," King said.
Volunteers and neighbors helped cut up downed trees, place tarps on missing roofs and remove debris from yards. And they helped restore people's hope when they didn't have much else left.
"We've received a lot of help, and we have a lot of great neighbors," said Keith James, a homeowner on North Bluff Road, whose house was destroyed. "We had three or four sets of neighbors who had lived here but now live in different areas, who came back last night to help us. They offered lodging and any help they could give. There's so many tremendous people in the world who are willing to help."