The National Weather Service confirmed an EF-2 tornado touched down in Stone and Taney Counties in Missouri from the Kimberling City area to Branson. 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 reached 120-130 miles per hour and extended 22 miles. The majority of the storm damage centered on the Historic Downtown area, Branson Landing and a section of W 76 Country Boulevard west of Gretna Road/Hwy 165, according to a news release from the city’s Chamber of Commerce.
In Branson, several thousand people are without power and it could take days to restore. Governor Jay Nixon declared Taney County a disaster area, which will enable Branson business owners affected by the storms to seek federal and state assistance with recovery efforts.
The chamber also says the Branson Airport was unaffected by the storms and there are no travel delays there.
Branson officials say 33 residents were treated and released from Missouri hospitals after the storm, most of them with minor cuts and bruises. No deaths have been reported in Branson. One death was reported in Cassville, Mo., and another was reported in Buffalo, Mo.
Meanwhile, cleanup efforts are underway in the tourist town. The America Red Cross has set up a command center to help those affected by the storms. Volunteers have been calling in, wanting to help with cleanup efforts, however authorities are warning 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.
Officials say there was no damage to water and sewer lines. However, there were numerous reports of propane leaks.
Local Branson hotels were damaged by the storm. Some hotels were evacuated, forcing guests to relocate. A Northwest Arkansas resident tells 5NEWS her husband was staying at the Hilton Convention Center in Branson. She says he had to crawl over debris and walk down 10 flights of stairs after the strong winds struck the hotel.
Tourist attractions such as Silver Dollar City, Sight and Sound Theatre, and Showboat Branson Belle escaped the storms without damage.
The chamber says the TITANIC Museum Attraction, Tanger Outlet Mall, and numerous theatres, attractions, restaurants and retail stores were also unharmed and remain open.
For updates on show schedule changes, affected attractions, restaurants and shops consumers should visit www.ExploreBranson.com or call 800-296-0463.
The damage caused to Branson was from the same storm system that prompted tornado warnings in Benton County and the Bella Vista area around midnight.
Individuals and groups interested in volunteering or providing assistance to the recovery effort can visit VolunteerBranson.org.