Ozark tornado April 30, 2019

Three people were injured and more than 100 homes were damaged in northern Ozark during a severe weather event that occurred in the Waterford subdivision off of State Route NN at approximately 8:40 p.m. April 30.

I’ve heard the terms “100-year storm” and “100-year flood,” but how about a 100-year tornado.

Actually, it’s a 99-year tornado. The U.S. Geological Survey refers to a 100-year flood as a rainfall event with a scientific 1 percent chance of occurring in any given year.

According to National Weather Service data, the EF-2 tornado that touched down in Ozark on April 30, reached a maximum width of 400 yards and a maximum wind speed of 134 mph. It touched down at 8:28 p.m. and lifted at 8:40 p.m., cutting a path 10 miles long. The official injury count is now at three.

The 2019 tornado’s path begins just south of the intersection of State Route NN and North Ninth Avenue. Its path moves northeast through the Waterford and Rivers subdivisions directly through the intersection of Route NN and Melton Road.

Karen Melton called our office to tell me about another tornado that destroyed homes and property on Melton Road, named for her family. This tornado occurred 99 years prior to the EF-2 twister that touched down in 2019.

1920 included a busy spring tornado season in southwest Missouri. On March 11, 1920, a tornado struck the now-ghost town of Melva in Taney County, killing 11 and injuring at least nine more persons.

The Palm Sunday tornado outbreak of 1920 occurred in late March. There were at least 37 tornados recorded throughout the Midwest, according to the National Weather Service.

“My grandfather was Leland Melton,” Karen Melton told me, and then recounted the story of the 1920 tornado that struck her family’s farm on what is now Melton Road in Ozark. Her grandfather was 10 at the time.

“In 1920, a tornado came through on that road, lifted up the house, and it fell on my great-grandmother and broke her leg,” Melton said.

I resisted the urge to interrupt with a “Wizard of Oz” joke. It turns out, Melton’s great-grandmother healed and survived. She was not a witch, but an incredibly tough person.

Melton’s grandfather also had a humorous twist to his story. He recounted how some livestock took a ride on the wind.

“They had a team of mules that my great-grandfather had tied up to the fence. They ended up on the other side of the fence,” Melton said.

Karen Melton lives in Springfield now, but she still keeps up with what’s happening in Ozark, especially on Melton Road. Her father, Leland Dale Melton, is 81. They followed news coverage of the 2019 tornado that destroyed houses on Melton Road with close interest.

“I broke down seeing all those houses down there,” Karen Melton told me about seeing the places she had played as a child torn up by the storm’s wrath. “I remember climbing in the silos and everything down there.”

The odds of a 100-year storm, as the name suggests, are 1-in-100. I’m not sure of the odds of a tornado striking the same place once every 99 years, but any meteorologist will tell you it’s incredibly difficult to predict the outcome of any tornado, let alone two of them.

I have found a few other instances of one spot being hit by multiple twisters. They’ve occurred in Harvest, Alabama, Moore, Oklahoma and West Liberty, Kanasas. 

I found some extreme examples, like an Associated Press story on Harvest, Alabama native Cody Stewart, who lost his home to tornadoes twice in 10 months. The town of Cordell, Kansas, was hit by tornadoes every May 20, for three consecutive years from 1916-1918. Finally, a church in Guy, Arkansas has hit by tornadoes three times.

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