Oak Grove still in recovery one year after devastating tornado

Posted: 7:09 PM, Mar 05, 2018
Updated: 2018-03-06 04:56:02Z

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Homes destroyed. Glass, siding, insulation, and all sorts of personal items scattered everywhere. A devastating storm that seemed to hit in a flash.

For many people, memories of the Oak Grove tornado don’t seem long ago.

Tuesday marks the one-year anniversary of the EF3 tornado that brought 150 mile per hour winds to the city and devastation to neighborhoods.

“It’s something you have no idea how bad it is until you go through it,” explained 88-year-old Anna Smith, who waited out the 2017 storm in a rocking chair inside her home. “I just hope and pray that none of my children ever have to go through it.”

Smith was inside her house when the tornado cut across her neighborhood, destroying her home and many others.

She said she feared for her life at the time and could vividly remember seeing the devastation after the storm.

“It seems like a lifetime when you’re going through it but it’s only a matter of minutes,” she explained. “I’m sure I’m lucky and I figure the Lord had a lot to do with it.”

One year later, Smith’s home on Grove Street shows no signs of tornado damage. 

Inside her neighborhood, which was left in ruins after the tornado, new and repaired homes sit along the street.

Peace and quiet have finally returned after weeks and months of recovery.

“Everything is new inside my home. It’s brand new from the ground up,” explained Smith, who showed 41 Action News the inside of her home and pointed to her new roof. “It’s nice now. It looks good.”

A short walk from Smith’s home, there are also signs that work is still left to be done.

Two homes in Smith’s neighborhood remain under construction a year after the tornado.

Bruce Johnson lived inside one of them when the storm hit.

“(The house) was completely leveled down to the foundation. None of the walls were standing,” explained Johnson, who has since moved to a new area of Oak Grove. “It seems like it was just yesterday that we lived there and everything was normal.”

The home next door to Johnson’s former home is also being completely rebuilt.

Johnson told 41 Action News that once the projects are complete, hardly any damage from the tornado will easily be seen along Grove Street and South Clinton Street.

“The neighborhood is starting to look back to normal,” he explained. “We’re not quite there but it’s almost there.”

The one-year-anniversary of the Oak Grove tornado will serve as a time for the community to look back on the ordeal.

Mayor Jeremy Martin said he will always remember seeing neighbors helping each other through the cleanup efforts.

“Everyone was just willing to drop what they were doing no matter what they had going on and just get out and help other people,” he explained. “It didn’t matter what they had going on they were truly interested in serving their neighbor.”

Through the devastation, Martin said Oak Grove showed how resilient it is.

“Just about every place that was torn up and removed by Mother Nature has now been rebuilt because that’s what the people of Oak Grove do,” the mayor said. “They step up, roll their sleeves and get it done.”

The community will come together to honor the one-year-anniversary of the tornado during an event at the Oak Grove Civic Center at 6:30 pm on Tuesday.