Firefighter first on the scene remembers Oak Grove tornado one year later

Posted at 12:58 PM, Mar 06, 2018

OAK GROVE, Mo. — March 6, 2017, is a day no one will ever forget if you live in Oak Grove.

On that March night, winds reaching 154 mph ripped across the city.

The small town of about 8,000 people was rocked. Nearly 500 homes were damaged or destroyed. 

The good news, in the midst of what seemed like a nightmare for many,  was that no one died in the EF3 tornado.

One year later, 41 Action News spoke with Captain JJ Follis with the Sni Valley Fire Protection District. Follis was the first firefighter who responded to the scene.

"We knew there were severe storms coming. We didn’t know the capacity of it. We actually watched the tornado go by, me and my action captain, as we waited for the fire chief," Capt. Follis said. “We saw the power lines were down, all the power was out so it was dark. The light is what showed us the devastation… It became more evident that we were going to stop here and we had a huge task on our hands."

From the moment the sun rose on March 7, 2017, the Oak Grove community and those surrounding it volunteered with the clean-up process.

Follis said seeing everyone come together defines what Oak Grove should be known for.

"It was overwhelming support by the communities — neighbors helping neighbors, friends needing other friends, people taking in strangers. We took neighbors from homes that were destroyed to neighbors whose homes weren’t. Some said, ‘We don’t know our neighbors,’ but we said, ‘Well you know them now,’ and we took them inside and they supported them."

There is a meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the civic center. The fire chief said if people are still in need of assistance, there are funds available to help them.