While visiting the Grand Lake area over the Memorial Day weekend, soon after the devastating Joplin tornado, we took a boat ride on the lake with friends. It was a warm day and the air was so pleasant as we sped over the water.
As we sailed around, I suddenly noticed a swath of land on which the trees appeared to be stripped. On each side of the swath there was plenty of vegetation, but we were obviously looking at the path of a tornado. We had heard that it hit in the lake area and had seen lots of uprooted trees near where we were staying, but what we were looking at now was on the other side of the lake and much more than uprooted trees.
As we drew closer to the shore, we could see boat docks overturned and ramps that looked like they had been wrung like washcloths. They were completely twisted from end to end.
There were hundreds of homes that were covered in blue tarps because the roofs were damaged or even non-existent. There were homes that were nothing but piles of rubble. There were concrete slabs where homes once stood.
We heard later about people who had to pay thousands of dollars to have huge old trees lifted from their homes, just to begin the process of clearing and cleaning to rebuild. There are many areas around Grand Lake that have huge homes valued in the hundreds of thousands of dollars (and more). Those that stood in the pathway of the tornado had been damaged, some beyond repair, some only slightly. Whether a half-million dollar mansion or a small cabin made no difference; the fickle nature of tornadoes was evident.
We were astounded at the amount of damage we saw. Probably we hadn’t heard of the strength of the storm at Grand Lake, because the level of damage and the injuries and fatalities in Joplin, Missouri, was more newsworthy. Residents at Grand Lake knew, however, that they “dodged the bullet” and some even went to Joplin to help with recovery efforts.
We enjoyed the lake and the holiday weekend, but our first-hand view of the power of the earlier tornado reminded us not to take our days for granted.