Howell County Storm Cleanup Continues

March 21, 2007 - Posted at 6:42 p.m. CDT

WEST PLAINS, MO-The scene in Howell County, MO hasn't changed a lot since a deadly tornado blew through on the morning of March 1st.

Scattered debris still lies in Richard Smith's yard.  Piles of bricks and a tree pierced by mother nature still serve as a grim reminder of that morning.

"I was in the bed asleep when it came through.  The noise woke me up.  I raised up and the ceiling just came down," said Smith.

What didn't come down, however, was the spirits of the storm ravaged community.

"It's just been wonderful how people have come across to help," said Smith.

Since the tornado, three weeks ago, dozens of volunteers have helped replace the roof on his house, pick up what's left of his work shop and even donate truck to put his furniture in.

Smith, who only lives a few hundred yards from where little Elizabeth Croney lost her life, says he's lucky his foundation was strong.

"If my house hadn't been brick, I think they would have been looking for me in the woods also," said Smith.

Now, life goes on, and it's time to pick up the pieces; no matter how small or large they may be.

And with the strength of a community and the help of good neighbors, each day gets a bit easier.

"I wish I could go around and hug each one of them's neck.  They've been so wonderful.  I just couldn't thank them enough, I don't think.  I just don't think I could," said Smith.

K8 News also talked to the family of Elizabeth Croney, who lost her life.  We are told the rest of the family is recovering and her father Jay is expected to be released from a Springfield hospital in a couple of weeks.  The family says they would like to thank everyone for their support and their prayers.

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