An American flag lay over a frame that used to hold a window at the site of a destroyed home in the Waterford subdivision. Gov. Mike Parson stood in front of the damage, and after a moment, grabbed the flag, folded it tightly, and tucked it back into a corner of the frame for its protection.
Parson visited Ozark Friday, May 3 to speak to victims of a confirmed EF2 tornado that ripped its way through several homes April 30. Missouri Sen. Eric Burlison, R-Battlefield, and Rep. Lynn Morris, R-Nixa, were also there to thank first responders and cleanup volunteers.
“I think you can see today with everybody here involved in this process how important it is for us all to work together and help one another out in times like this,” Parson said.
Waterford resident Kent Rogers thanked Convoy of Hope, Red Cross and a help group from James River Church. Rogers’ home was totally devastated.
“Without those [groups], it would have been horrible,” Rogers said. “They were all a blessing and I hope God blesses every one of you.”
Rogers also told Parson the story behind his knee injury. He got around during Parson’s visit on a pair of crutches.
“As I was running around a corner, I shoved my wife down,” Parson said, describing the moments before the storm hit. “I guess I landed on my knee when I grabbed her... got our daughter in there, too.”
Parson thanked Rogers and spoke to the importance of having a plan when the weather turns bad.
“Frankly, they were fortunate to make it,” Parson said. “You look at these houses here and it’s a good learning lesson for us all to make sure we hear the warning signs, and we get out when we can get out, and not have to go through this—but the people that live here are very fortunate to have survived.”
Ozark Police Chief Tim Clothier told the governor the amount of damage throughout the neighborhood was underestimated immediately following the tornado.
“There wasn’t any daylight. It was already dark,” Clothier said. “Now, we know that we have a little over 100 homes that were mile to moderately damaged and a dozen to two dozen that were severely damaged.”
Despite the darkness, Clothier reported first responders promptly got to work.
“We paired up in teams, started checking houses, started marking that residences were checked, and we had everybody out,” he said. “It went as smooth as any training or any exercise or any real event you’ve ever seen. It was seamless.”
Christian County Sheriff Brad Cole acknowledged those outside of the Waterford neighborhood, including farmers who lost livestock.
“It’s affected lives in all different ways throughout our community, but one thing that I will say—I knew we lived in a good community of people that want to help, that are true givers, but I can tell you that after the last three days, I don’t think we could live in a better community,” Cole said. “We’ve had more food brought to us, we’ve had more offers of help, more volunteers to help than we can put into words. It’s been absolutely amazing to see the outpour.”
Parson asked everyone to remember the tragedy, which will take months to recover from as families piece their homes and their lives back together. Parson also thanked the media for playing a part in putting out storm warnings and sharing victims’ stories.
“Southwest Missouri—I’m always just so proud of this area and what they people believe in, and who they are and what they stand for,” Parson said. “It’s good to be here.”