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Edgar Spring, MO Hit By Tornado

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The tiny mid-Missouri town of Edgar Springs, Missouri took a direct hit from either a tornado or straight line winds that struck in the middle of the night, severely damaging a popular filling station.

The town sits in a rural area 20 miles south of Rolla, Missouri.

'We pulled up and saw the roof was off and we knew at that point it was pretty much a lost cause,' said Jim Blythe, owner of Route 63 Gas, which is still standing though badly damaged.

It has been open only eight years, but in a town of just 208 residents, it doesn`t take long to become an institution, which is how many residents in Edgar Springs regard Route 63 Gas.  The station was family built,  family owned and family run, and the people who gather there to fill up on coffee as well as gas also feel like part of a family.

'We built it here, it`s a small community, we service a lot of people here, we employ a lot of people here, they are all out of jobs now so I am hoping to get a fast recovery on it,' Blythe said.

Part of the sting of losing the business is that along with being a gas station, it was also a convenience store, car wash and burger joint.
About one-quarter mile from the gas station is another local institution, the Edgar Springs Farm and Feed store.

The owner`s barn lost some of its roof, the trailer used to transport feed was overturned,  and a camper was destroyed,  but owner Gene Terry feels lucky.

'Me and my wife are safe, that`s the main thing.  We`ll make it,' he said.

The storm has at 1:00 a.m., while most of the town`s 208 residents were sleeping. But assistant fire chief Mike Ellison and others had gone to the fire station as a precaution as soon as they heard a tornado warning had been issued. But there was little they could do at first.

'It was very powerful. We tried to open the door to our firehouse and it literally sucked the door out of our hand and slammed it back shut and that`s when we knew it was already too late,' Ellison said.

One resident who was awake is Tommy Forester, who lives five miles north of town.

'We were just putting the kids to bed and started hearing the rain hitting the roof and then we started seeing the horizontal rain and knew it was time to head to the basement.  Ever since Joplin we don`t mess around,' he said.

There is some debate whether the storm was a tornado.  The Emergency Management Director for Phelps County says she isn`t sure because while the damage has characteristics of being the result of a tornado, there is no path of destruction from one point to another.  The only other significant damage was to the roof of a home in the far southern part of the county.  People were inside when the storm hit, but they were not injured.

'It sure looked like (a tornado) to me. Some of the posts that was holding the roof on were sitting down through the floor in the porch and it pulled them plum up out of there. If it had been a straight wind it would have just bent them over,' said Terry.

In the meantime, Jim Blythe is still waiting for more information before he decides whether he will rebuild his gas station, store, car wash and restaurant.

'It`s tough as it is with the economy the way it is right now and this doesn`t make it easier. We`ve got insurance but you never know how that`s gonna work out until you`re done. I don`t like to sit around so by the time we make a decision in the next day or two it will happen pretty fast,' he said, adding, ' I want to rebuild it.  You just gotta look at the dollars and cents of it.'

There is a gas station across from Route 63 Gas,   but it's much smaller.  Its roof was also damaged but it remains open.
Ironically, as one of the larger buildings in town, people have used Route 63 Gas in the past as a tornado shelter.

Word of damage to the station spread fast and remarkably wide.

'We`ve had calls from all over the country.  Philadelphia, Florida, they`ve seen it on CNN, they`ve seen it on the internet, the coverage is tremendous,' said Blythe, adding, 'the insurance adjuster called me today and said I am watching it right now on TV.'