Looking back four years after the Kirksville tornado
It's hard to believe it has been exactly 4 years since the deadly and destructive EF-2 tornado hit Kirksville and northeast Missouri. It's a day that residents remember as if it were only yesterday.
It all started at 5:35 p.m. on May 13, 2009, when a supercell thunderstorm produced an EF-1 tornado off of Highway Y near Milan damaging a few homes.
Then, that same storm continued to head east along Highway 6. The tornado didn't touch down again until just outside of Novinger as an EF-2, reaching winds in excess of 115 mph, causing a lot of damage before heading right for the northern end of Kirksville just a little after 6 p.m.
Steve March and Randy Cowan were just leaving the Jim Roberson's car dealership where they work.
"Sky got a little darker. We were locking the building before we got out of here and we knew something was going on," March said.
"You couldn't see the thing, it was behind a wall of rain. But you could tell what was going on when the debris was flying," Cowan said.
But what they didn't realize was that the tornado was heading right towards them and Jim Robertson's.
"We got about 150 yards past the dealership and I saw Randy's truck back wheels come off the pavement. I knew something was wrong," March said.
"It all happened so quickly, I just kept my foot on the gas pedal and kept going to get out of here," Cowan said.
After the shock of the tornado passed, for residents the damage and reality set-in.
"On my way home, I saw cars flipped over, and the building was devastated," March said.
"It's a shocker, you look at it and see what's happened and say...WOW," Cowan said.
Four years later, homes and businesses have been rebuilt and lessons have been learned, but the memories of that day will stay forever.
The tornado also caused extensive damage to the Lakeside Estates Subdivision and the Novinger Baptist Church.
It killed three people in its path. Joyce Green was killed when the tornado passed near Milan, destroying the mobile home where she and her husband Paul lived. His life was spared. Alisha Brune and Gus Ochoa were killed when the twister leveled their manufactured home northwest of Kirksville. The Adair County Family YMCA soccer fields were dedicated in memory of Ochoa.
Two years after the Kirksville tornado, the EF-5 tornado hit Joplin. People said that it reopened old wounds, but made them realize that the Kirksville tornado could have been a lot worse.