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Smithville family loses home in EF-1 tornado

'We were just trying to get back on our feet a year ago, and here we go again'
Smithville tornado
Posted at 5:56 PM, Apr 16, 2024

SMITHVILLE, Mo. — On the edge of a Smithville Lake campground, the Kemp family set up their travel trailer to act as a temporary home.

Unfortunately, it was overturned in Tuesday morning's storm.

Kristel, Kevin and their 11-year-old son Bentlee moved in three months ago and planned to live at the lake until November.

They moved out of their previous home after Kevin was in a near-fatal accident with a semi truck last year. He hasn’t been able to work consistently since.

“To know that we lost everything again. I don’t know, it’s hard,” Kevin said. “People don’t realize the effect of something like this. It’s not just the financial part, it does a lot mentally.”

Kristel McGinnis, Kemp’s partner, was home with her son when the tornado hit. She said her phone alerted her of a potential threat just minutes before it hit.

The pair ran to the closest bathroom storm shelter with their dog, reaching the doors just in time.

“I didn’t know it was a tornado. I thought it was just a storm,” Bentlee said. “But I was just running and almost fell.”

McGinnis said the 100-yard sprint to the shelter felt like it lasted a lifetime while the tornado lasted mere moments.

“It was loud,” McGinnis said. “And that’s when I knew this was probably gone. It was scary.”

The Kemps spent Tuesday afternoon with the Red Cross while salvaging any items they could.

Kevin said it feels like they are starting their lives over again for the second time within the last year.

“Can’t give up, obviously. But man, we were just trying to get back on our feet a year ago, and here we go again,” he said. “The memory will always be there, but maybe we will make light of a bad situation, hopefully.”

McGinnis started a GoFundMe to raise funds for her family as they look for a new place to call home. You can donate here.