MATTHEWS, MO (KFVS) - On February 24, 2018, the Cotton Point Living Center in Matthews, Missouri was struck by a 120-mile-per-hour EF2 tornado that severely damaged the facility.
Staff at the nursing home evacuated 57 residents from the home and temporarily transferred the residents, and some staff members, to various other nursing home facilities throughout southeast Missouri.
This caused the residents to be separated from their friends and loved ones for more than seven months as the Cotton Point Living Center repaired the costly damages.
Repairs were made to the nursing home in November so they could start transferring the residents from their temporary living facility back home at the Cotton Point Living Center in Matthews.
Eleanor Crowell lived at the facility for a couple years before that dark Saturday night in February. She recalled the events that unfolded that night when the chaos hit.
"This wind is too strong to be a storm," Crowell said. "Things were banging up against the windows and against the walls, the brick. That's what was scary. There was no noise of any kind except the wind blowing and the banging."
When the tornado came through and hit the facility, it destroyed fencing, ripped off roofs and blew out windows.
Crowell’s friend and resident neighbor Mickie Ormsey remembered the incident as well.
“The first thing I remembered was a loud bang,” Ormsey recalled. “I remembered we went into the hall and then into the dining room. Everything was done in an orderly fashion. We were very pleased how the staff handled everything.”
"We were very blessed," Cotton Point Living Center Director of Nursing Heather Chasteen said in an interview just days after the storm hit. "The staff were safe. The residents were safe and they all did very well."
At first, residents were taken to different nursing homes and hospitals for shelter after being displaced.
"That was a bad part," Crowell stated. "We didn't know where we were going and 13 of us didn't have a home that night. They put us on a bus to take us to the hospital to spend the night."
Those residents after the first night in the hospital were then taken to other care facilities around the area. All the residents received a lot of help from other nursing homes such as the Lutheran Home in Cape Girardeau, the Minor Nursery Center, Caruthersville South Gate Nursing Center, River Oaks in Steele, Hunter Acres in Sikeston, the Missouri Delta Medical Center and more.
The residents were not harmed during the storm, other that one person that had a minor cut that was treated on scene. However, the pains from the furious storm started settling in when the residents were separated from their friends and loved ones, living miles apart from one another at the different housing facilities.
"All new people," Crowell said. "I missed the people here. I missed the caregivers. I missed them all. There was a few of us there that we latched onto for comfort."
"It was a matter of months," Ormsey said while her and her husband waited at a Sikeston facility. "In the meantime, the Lord took him (husband) while we were in Clearview. That's okay because he's not suffering anymore. Then we came back...I mean I came back to Cotton Point."
Cotton Point did have some of the staff members temporarily work at the various housing units so that the residents had a familiar face to see.
Ormsey tried to settle in as best as she could while she was at her temporary home. In the midst of her husbands death, she still managed to make some new friends there.
As for Crowell, she felt eager to move back as she counted each day that passed.
"Just waiting. It was a wait and see game," Crowell remembered. "We thought maybe a couple of weeks. That didn't happen. Maybe a month or a couple of months. It just all went by."
During that time, repairs were made to the roof, the frame of the building, new windows, ceiling, walls and more.
“At the moment we are in construction in one area,” Cotton Point Living Center Social Services Director Danielle DeVers said. “We did have a behavior unit before the tornado hit. That will now be opening up in January as our Alzheimer unit. That part of the building is still under construction but we completely finished the rest of it.”
Residents and staff we spoke with there said they couldn't wait and were very excited to be back home to the Cotton Point Living Center.
“Everybody was glad to see everybody,” DeVers said. “There were lots of tears out of happiness from being back. Lots of hugs. Some of these people haven’t seen each other in eight months. It was very heart-filling just to see the smiles and how happy everybody was.”
"It's wonderful," Ormsey added. "This was our first home. We loved it. I love it!"
"It was exciting!" Crowell stated. "We got to share news of what was going on in their places. It's very exciting and we have a new chef!"
DeVers said they only have 25 residents back at this moment but are still transferring more residents back in the facility in the next several weeks.