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Tornado slams rural Puxico

Wednesday, February 29, 2012 ~ Updated 12:52 PM

Photo courtesy of Samantha Douglas The home of Don and Debbie Douglas on County Road 256 was among several homes destroyed in a storm, believed to have been a tornado, just before 5 a.m. Wednesday. The storm hit an area just east of Puxico.

Managing Editor

PUXICO, Mo- Several homes were flattened and at least one person was critically injured in a storm that slammed into rural Puxico just before 5 a.m. Wednesday.

The National Weather Service has not yet confirmed the strength of the storm that ripped several houses from their foundations and scattered debris across an area east of the city.

Don and Debbie Douglas, whose home was on County Road 256, were awakened by the storm just before 5 a.m. and were on their way to take cover in their basement when the storm hit, totally demolishing their home. The two were uninjured, but when daylight came they saw the extent of the devastation around them. Their home and outbuildings were strewn about as far as the eye could see.

Don Douglas' parents, D.L. and Fern Douglas, live nearby their son's home on County Road 267. While their home was spared, a trailer that had been situated about a quarter-mile away was found in the Douglas' pond. Another nearby trailer was destroyed in the storm, and its occupants were seriously injured. An unidentified male who was in the trailer was found in the wreckage and was airlifted, along with his wife, to a Cape Girardeau hospital.

The home of Jeremy and Lacey Wood in the same area was also destroyed. The couple has two children, one a newborn baby, and all were reported to be safe. Their home, however, horse trailers and vehicles, were all lost to the storm. Two horses from their neighbor's pasture were found dead, lying near the rubble of the Wood's home.

Among those on the scene at the Wood's home was their pastor, Phil Warren, who came to comfort the family. "It is nothing short of a miracle that this family is alive," he said at the scene. The couple, with their school age son and newborn baby, were in the center of their home when the storm hit, awakened just moments before it struck. A neighbor, Louis Keena, whose arena was destroyed in the storm, arrived in short order to pull the Wood family from the debris where their home once stood. The family's pony was killed in the storm.

The home of Rusty Tanner was also destroyed in the storm, along with several other homes east of Puxico.

The Stoddard County Sheriff's Department responded to the first call as a result of the storm at 5:01 a.m., according to Dispatch Supervisor Amy Holden. Calls for help continued throughout the early morning hours. Agencies reporting to the storm included Stoddard County deputies, Stoddard County EMS, the Highway Patrol, Puxico Police and Fire Departments, along with the Bloomfield Fire Department. Dexter Fire also responded with needed supplies and trucks. The off-road rescue unit from SCAD was also utilized.

Stoddard County Ambulance District (SCAD) Director Dave Cooper was among the first on the scene.

"There is no doubt in my mind that this was a tornado," he said. Everything about the aftermath is indicative of tornado activity."

SCAD sent all off-duty personnel to the Puxico area when word was received of the storm.

"We sent four ambulances," he confirmed, "and Butler County sent three. Air Evac sent two helicopters to the area, and we had one more helicopter standing by."

Debris across the rural roadways posed a problem for rescue units, Cooper said. Ambulances had to be re-routed several times due to fallen trees across the gravel roads.

The Baptist Chainsaw crew was already on the scene assisting homeowners and removing trees along the roadways early Wednesday. Their group is staged at the SCAD facility in Dexter.

The storm cut a path from PP Highway east of Puxico, with the brunt of the damage occurring along stretches of county roads east to the Swinton area. Homes on County Roads 271, 256, 267, 249, and 287 were hit. The storm passed within 300 yards of the ambulance station on Highway 51 in Puxico before heading to the area east of PP Highway, Cooper said.

Photos from the Puxico area from The Daily Statesman's Corey Noles and SCAD Director Dave Cooper may be found in the Photo Galleries on this website.

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What a heartbreaking story. I grew up in Dexter and the threat of storms in the mid-west always instills fear in me. God be with the families during this season of storms.

-- Posted by DTamplet on Wed, Feb 29, 2012, at 12:03 PM

It has just been reported on KFVS12, one fatality in Puxico storm. Sad.

-- Posted by Dexterite1 on Wed, Feb 29, 2012, at 12:54 PM

We certainly will hold the families up in prayer.

-- Posted by swift on Wed, Feb 29, 2012, at 4:36 PM

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