Storms Strike Southeast Missouri, One Dead

April 3, 2006 – Posted at 5:56 p.m. CST

PEMISCOT COUNTY, MO -- A deadly tornado killed one woman and about 60 people were treated for injuries after the storm touched down East of Kennett and created a path of destruction all the way to Caruthersville. More than half of that town has been destroyed....but Caruthersville was lucky compared to its neighbor Braggadocio. The town has been literally wiped off the map.

"Around 6:30 or so last night, we were getting ready to eat and we saw this huge cloud coming, probably a mile wide. Anyway, our friends came over and they started down the basement. We probably wouldn't have gone down there had it not been for them and then everything just started flying to pieces," said Braggadocio resident Terry Coppage.

Monday, the reality of what is left is setting in with residents of this small Pemiscot County town of about 300. And the relief effort is already starting. Jake Fisher with the University of Missouri Delta Research Center gathered his co-workers and supplies trying to help.

"We've brought water & sandwiches and then we're going to see if we can assist in any way we can. Board up windows and stuff like that," said Fisher.

There is not much left of a 140-year-old home believed to be where outlaw Jesse James once stayed. The owner says she is lucky to be alive, but her elderly neighbor and her sons weren't so lucky.

"They had been thrown from the home out into the field and when I hollered from him, he could barely talk. So I followed his voice and there was blood and broken legs and just you know in bad shape," said survivor Marla Gill. Authorities are not yet releasing the name of the woman killed...but Gill says her survival is a sign from God.

"I promised the Lord, I figured He would save me for some reason because by all nights, I should have been blown away with my neighbors," said Gill, "But I'm going to start paying attention to what He wants me to do because clearly He wants me to do something. Braggadocio has always been a great, wonderful little community and I don't now what's going to happen to it now."

The National Weather Service has not determined how large the tornado was that destroyed Braggadocio. They are currently surveying damage in Pemiscot County.

The deadly storms that moved through late yesterday afternoon also destroyed more than half of the town of Caruthersville.  Most of the damage was sustained on the south-east side of town and both the Caruthersville Middle and High School were part of the wreckage. About 200 residents were displaced by the storm and have been moved to area shelters. Crews are working on getting power back to the area. The city lost all of its above-ground water supply when a water tower was destroyed and officials are asking residents to conserve water. Fortunately there were only a few critical injuries...and no one was killed.

"The damage it's just devastating, the whole town it's just massive destruction through the population center of the town. It's going take a long time to recover from that," said city attorney Lawrence Dorroh.

The Caruthersville School is closed for the rest of this week and will have spring break next week. Also, Division 1 Circuit Court for Tuesday and Wednesday has been canceled. City elections scheduled for tomorrow have also been postponed until May 2.