The National Weather Service has confirmed an EF-2 tornado touched down in Stone and Taney Counties in Missouri from the Kimberling City area to Branson on the morning of February 29th. Here is the site survey information from the NWS Office in Springfield, MO.
.EF-2 TORNADO CONFIRMED IN STONE AND TANEY COUNTIES FROM THE KIMBERLING CITY AREA TO BRANSON…
* DATE: 02/29/2012
* BEGIN LOCATION: NEAR JOE BALD ROAD IN KIMBERLING CITY 36.6258N 93.4397W (STONE COUNTY)
* END LOCATION: 2 MILES EAST OF KISSEE MILLS 36.6575N 93.0276W (TANEY COUNTY)
* ESTIMATED BEGIN TIME:APPROXIMATELY 113 AM.
* ESTIMATED END TIME:APPROXIMATELY 132 AM.
* MAXIMUM EF-SCALE RATING. EF-2.
* ESTIMATED MAXIMUM WIND SPEED: 120 MPH-130 MPH.
* ESTIMATED PATH WIDTH: MAX 400 YARDS.
* PATH LENGTH: APPROXIMATELY 22 MILES.
* FATALITIES: NONE.
The storm injured 33 people and damaged more than 100 homes and businesses in Branson.
The tornado moved into the area just after 1 a.m. The NWS says wind speeds had reached between 120-130 miles per hour and extended 22 miles. The preliminary rating from the NWS office out of Springfield, Missouri rated this as an EF-2 tornado.
Meanwhile, cleanup efforts are already underway in the tourist town. Thankfully, amid the damage, no deaths have been reported in Branson. One death was reported in Cassville, Mo., and another was reported in Buffalo, Mo.
The America Red Cross has set up a command center to help those affected by the storms. Branson officials said that 33 residents were treated and released from Missouri hospitals after the storm, most of them with minor cuts and bruises. Volunteers have been calling in, wanting to help with cleanup efforts, but authorities have warned them to stay out of the area until it is determined to be safe.
Several power lines are down, some of which are still on, according to officials. Firefighters brought out chainsaws overnight to cut down trees and other debris from the city. Officials say there was no damage to water and sewer lines. However, there were numerous reports of propane leaks.
Local Branson hotels and businesses were damaged by the storm, including a Taco Bell, a hotel and a TCBY. Some hotels were evacuated, forcing guests to relocate. At the time of this post, there was no word on the exact amount of damage caused to the popular Silver Dollar City Theme Park in Branson. Police say looters are also a major concern in the area.
Branson and Dallas County R-I schools will not hold class Wednesday due to the amount of damage. The Mayor of Branson said most of the injuries reported were minor and attributes the lack of injuries to the city’s tornado sirens which sounded five minutes before the tornado struck. The damage caused to Branson was from the same storm system that had earlier prompted tornado warnings in Benton County and the Bella Vista area around midnight.