The wind was gusting, the clouds were swirling, the lightning was flashing and the rain was falling.
This is what I was experiencing at my home right in downtown Smithville a little less than six miles away. On HWY 169 a funnel cloud dropped an EF-2 tornado at 7:18 PM. This tornado produced wind speeds that topped 132 MPH and damaged or destroyed everything in it’s path. For 30 minutes, this wall cloud lowered and raised it’s funnel from northern Smithville all the way into Lathrop. Many sustained significant or serious damage to their property and some lost their homes entirely but the ensuing 24 hours would be the real showing of a community coming together to support their friends and their neighbors.
Less than five minutes after the tornado struck the Smithville subdivisions of Diamond Crest and Harbor Lake, emergency personnel and first responders were on scene. Smithville and Edgerton/Trimble Fire, Smithville Police, Clay County Sheriff’s Deputies, Clay County Park Rangers, Northland Regional Ambulance District and Missouri State Highway Patrol all tended to the chaos caused by this natural disaster. These men and women are the true heroes when disaster strikes and once again proved their amazing abilities as they rescued people under the debris.
Neighbors began to come out in full force and help with whatever they could. Moving trees, metal and pieces of houses to better help the first responders do their job. Working chainsaws late into the evening to assure everyone was safe and property was cleared of fallen trees or debris. People left the safety of their homes in order to help those in need despite being in some danger themselves.
When the sun rose on Tuesday morning, the real work began. Emergency crews and first responders began to start the preliminary clean-ups. With the damage able to be fully assessed: electricians, damage control experts and insurance companies began to help out in whatever capacity possible. My classmates and friends who were affected by the storms helped each other clean-up and local businesses began rallying community support. Kozak’s Laketown Grill, a popular, local restaurant, made sacked lunches for those in need between Smithville and Lathrop.
Operation BBQ and Chops BBQ have teamed up to provide dinner meals to those who need it in the affected neighborhoods and various Smithville High School clubs including Future Business Leaders of America and Student Council are gathering gift cards to donate to the affected families. Throughout the afternoon, the community continued to offer support and clean-up efforts continued.
I was able to get over to Diamond Crest around 4 PM and was immediately humbled by seeing the damage first hand. I thank God no one was seriously injured or killed and after taking a few moments to examine the damage, I started helping a classmate and her family.
Throughout the afternoon, I noticed many people helping to clean-up the neighborhood and recognized that community is much stronger than any storm. The sense of community created a feeling of optimism with the families that had lost everything even to the point where they began finding humour from the situation. This is what makes communities great and makes Smithville greater. While we are growing quickly, we will still always stop and help the next person whenever needed. I saw and heard so many great stories of people helping each other and really just being there for those in need.
While this is just the beginning of the clean-up process and rebuilding, I was comforted by the fact that the community has each other’s backs and will always be on the lookout for one another. I’m thankful to live in such a place where neighbors will do whatever it takes to help and will put themselves in danger to help those in need. I’m thankful to live in a community with incredible first responders who will comfort and assist those who have lost nearly everything. Most importantly, I’m thankful to live a community that will rally. One that will stand with both the people they know and the people they don’t. I am assured that TOGETHER we will provide for those who need it and TOGETHER we will rebuild.
Nick Hartman is a Senior at Smithville High School.