OREGON COUNTY -- Residents in the small community of Myrtle were shocked late last Saturday night when two tornados moved through the area leaving destruction in their path.
Oregon County Sheriff Tim Ward said the sheriff's office first received information that strong winds were in the southeastern portion of the county around 10:10 p.m. "It was 10:59 when we first received word of any damage," the sheriff said.
The National Weather Service at first said the storm was a severe thunderstorm with straight line winds. On Sunday, National Weather Service officials confirmed that an F-2 twister touched down nine miles east of Thayer near V Highway and continued on a path 300 yards wide.
The majority of the damage was near Oregon County Road 263. Ward said at least two mobile homes were destroyed. He said it was to early to place a dollar amount on the destruction, but did say it would be high.
Many of the residents of the mobile homes and houses destroyed or damaged were not at home at the time of the storm. Ward said he thinks that is what kept the owners and residents of the property from receiving injuries.
Michelle Lee was just returning home with her son after the first tornado hit. She was born and raised on the property that is now destroyed. The farm lost a double-wide trailer, several outbuildings, a tractor, corral, sheds and a Harley Davidson motorcycle. A single trailer on the property was also destroyed.
"My son and I had just pulled in the drive and was assessing the damage when we saw a bolt of lightning and in the light saw what we believed to be a funnel cloud," Lee said.
On the same farm, three horses were what Lee called "rolled up" in trees. "We cut two of them out. One got out by itself. They have some cuts but we think they are going to be OK," Lee said.
She said help from neighbors and residents across the county was immediate. "Red Cross volunteers Jerry and Wendi Donahue offered us lodging and food and clothes. David Case, pastor of the Riverton Baptist Church, was here with chain saws," Lee said.
"We have been blessed. Our family is fine. All this other stuff is just cosmetic. We are thankful," Lee said.
Ward said that near the Tom James place, round bales of hay were tossed through the air like paper. He showed some round bales in a field. "That is not where that hay is supposed to be. It was stacked some 100 yards or 1/4 mile away on the other side of the road," the sheriff said. A round bale of hay typically weighs around 1,500 pounds.
The sheriff said the destruction is still being evaluated. Many barns, sheds, vehicles, corrals and hundreds of trees received damage from the storms.
Hershal and Lisa Wrenfow, who live just off V Highway, had a window blown out of their home and a hole blown in the underside of the roof. The insulation was sucked out of the attic of the home and into the home through the broken window. Lisa's 1993 Ford Ranger truck was destroyed by a tree falling on it. She said she did not have full coverage on the truck because of its age and her homeowners insurance carrier said they would not cover it.
Near the Wrenfrow farm, Eve Webb lived in a doublewide mobile home that was picked up and moved three or four feet. From the outside of the home one can't see much damage but upon entering it the damage is extensive.
Wrenfrow said his southern district road crew did an excellent job and worked 12 hours straight removing trees and helping the sheriff and his deputies check on many residents who lived off the beaten path.
He said County Road 262 was closed for several hours because of massive trees that covered 3/4 mile of the road. "We worked for two hours just clearing the road so we could get in to check on many families who lived back in that community," he said.
"This is the best reason to live where we live. Our people come together and help each other," he said.
Besides praising his road crew he said the neighbors and loggers and the Oregon County Sheriff's Department did a great job. "They need to be mentioned by name. Besides Sheriff Ward, the deputies who helped were Brian Blankenship, Eddie Johnson, Luke Simmons and first responder Darrin Sorrell," the southern commissioner said.
Oregon County Presiding Commissioner Leo Warren said Monday that he had been in contact with the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) to report the damage and as of press time was waiting for them to get back to him. "We are very fortunate. As much damage as that portion of the county sustained, there were no injuries or deaths. Fortunately many of the people who lived in the homes damaged or destroyed were not at home when the storms rolled through. That was a blessing," he said.