May 7, 2003 at 8:31 AM CDT - Updated June 21 at 2:57 PM
Jackson Hit By Tuesday Night Tornado By: Kate Scott
(Jackson, MO)--After the roar of the storm, it was the sound of sirens that filled the air in Jackson, Missouri Tuesday night. It was clear a tornado had carved a wide path of damage through town, long before the debris ever saw the light of day.
"It's unbelievable," declared resident Randy McWilson, shaking his head. "The metal, the power lines, trees everywhere... It's just like nothing I've ever seen with my own eyes in my own town."
The storm appears to have swept through parts of downtown Jackson, including a section of S. Hope Street. The owners of Beverly Craiglow Tax Service were inside their business when the storm hit. "It kind of sounded to me like a snowplow running on dry pavement," said Larry Koehler, who took shelter with his wife Beverly in a small file room. Around them, the twister blew out their building's windows and jammed boards through its walls. "The roof is leaking like mad," Koehler pointed out late Tuesday evening. "We've got lumber and pieces of metal from who knows where scattered all over the place."
Up the road, Willie's Bakery fared worse. The roof and walls were blown away. At a nearby trailer park, residents escaped injury, despite more damage. "I saw part of trailer next to mine blow off," described resident Lisa Grady. She says she worried for her life as her trailer too started to move. But then a kind neighbor with a basement gave her shelter. "I'm just thankful someone was there, because I was shaken," she told Heartland News, as she visibly shook. "I'm terrified."
The neighbor who helped Grady was Beverly McWilson, who was terrified herself after seeing a funnel hit the nearby Jackson Police and Fire Station. "I had the door open," she told Heartland News. "I was looking right at it." McWilson described seeing a wall cloud, then a funnel, descend on the building. She recalled seeing sparks fly from the station's transmitter, then watching an antenna get torn off. "It was awful," she gasped.
And it looked awful after the storm too. It seemed something did tear the roof off the police and fire station. It was strong enough to turn over a fire truck and a Haz Mat trailer, and smash a police cruiser. The windows in the building blew out, the rain came in, and rescue officials were forced to move their operations for the time being.
Many of them spent the night in the Bent Creek subdivision, cutting tree limbs in order to clear a path to even worse damage. On Lake Wood Drive, you could see right into a second-story room in one home, which looked like it had been sliced in half. Next door, cars were piled up in the rubble from another house. Both sets of debris were right across the street from John Sander. "After the roar left, I came upstairs and got the flashlight, and that's when I noticed their garage was totally destroyed," said Sander of his neighbors. "Then I saw my other neighbors' house, where the cars were shoved into the house. That's where I kind of lost it for a while, because I didn't think they were okay."
But according to Sander, it turns out all the neighbors on his street were okay, as were the friends and neighbors who gathered with the Koehlers at Craiglow Tax Service. But even as they exchanged hugs and shaky smiles, the storm survivors realized that not everyone may have been so lucky. "I'm just thankful no one here was hurt," said Koehler. "And I hope everyone else around town was that fortunate."