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Apparent Tornado Touches Down In Branson Wednesday Morning

No Storm Damage In Ava Area

Ten months ago it was Joplin; this week it’s Branson.

In the early morning hours of Wednesday, Feb. 29, a powerful storm system that produced multiple reports of tornadoes came through the Midwest.  A tornado produced by this storm system touched down in Branson.  Initial reports indicate that there were no fatalities, although a significant number of minor injuries and property damage were reported.

“We are extremely thankful that there was no reported loss of life due to the tornado that struck Branson on the morning of Feb. 29, and our thoughts and prayers go out to those families who did lose loved ones as a result of this large storm system that affected much of the Midwest,” said City Administrator Dean Kruithof.

Currently 33 moderate or slight injuries have been reported as a result of the storm in Branson.

As the powerful storm made its way through southern Missouri, storm spotters were put on standby alert in the Ava area.

Ava/Douglas County Emergency Management Director Billy Long said the EMA office in Ava was open and staffed from 1 to 3 a.m. Wednesday, but no damage was reported in the area.

Cris Swaters, of White River Valley Electric Cooperative, said some 7,000 customers were without power at 8 a.m. Wednesday, mostly in the Stone and Taney county area. There were scattered outages in Douglas, Ozark and Christian counties, she said.

Some areas in and around Branson are served by Empire Electric, and it was said as many as 10,000 total customers might have been without electrical service Wednesday morning.

By 12:45 p.m. Wednesday, White River Electric had reduced the number of outages to about 3,500, Swaters said.

People in the damage area are warned to stay away from power lines on the ground or hanging from poles as they may still have electricity running through them.

To report outages, customers are asked to call WRVEC at 1-800-695-0056.

The majority of the storm damage centered around the Historic Downtown area, Branson Landing and a section of West 76 Country Boulevard west of Gretna Road/Hwy 165. Recovery and rebuilding efforts are already under way.

According to reports Lynn Berry, director of public relations for Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce and Convention Visitors Bureau, the Branson Airport was unaffected by the storms, and flights are departing and arriving with no delays.  Major attractions such as Silver Dollar City, Sight and Sound Theatre, and Showboat Branson Belle (while closed during the first quarter of the year), sustained no damage; Titanic Museum Attraction, Tanger Outlet Mall, and numerous theatres, attractions, restaurants and retail stores are also undamaged and remain open and welcoming visitors to the Live Music Show Capital of the World.

There are currently very few road closures in the Branson area due to storm damage. Portions of Country Music Highway 76 are currently restricted due to recovery efforts.  Currently five or six of the more than 50 theatres in Branson have sustained significant damage as a result of the storms.

Approximately 12-15 of the more than 200 hotels in Branson have sustained significant damage as a result of the storms.

Approximately five to six of the attractions in Branson have sustained significant damage as a result of the storms. City of Branson inspection crews are currently assessing the situation.

At 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, Gov. Jay Nixon declared Taney County a disaster area, which will enable local business owners that have been affected by the storms to seek federal and state assistance with recovery efforts.

Individuals and groups interested in volunteering or providing assistance to the recovery effort can visit Volunteer, Berry said.

Branson has not been routinely affected by tornados in the past. Only twice in the last 20 years has the city been struck by tornados, neither time with significant damage.

The resilience of the Ozark people, their faith and steadfast nature will shine through this unfortunate situation, and Branson will rebuild and recover quickly, Berry added.