ONE YEAR LATER: Oak Grove residents remember devastation of torn - KCTV5 News

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ONE YEAR LATER: Oak Grove residents remember devastation of tornado

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Nearly 500 homes were either damaged or destroyed during the storm, as people’s lives and memories disappeared within seconds. (KCTV) Nearly 500 homes were either damaged or destroyed during the storm, as people’s lives and memories disappeared within seconds. (KCTV)
OAK GROVE, MO (KCTV) -

Tuesday marks exactly one year since tragedy struck the communities of Oak Grove and Smithville Missouri.

Hundreds of homes and businesses were destroyed when the EF-3 tornado ripped through each of the metro towns.

Both communities have come a long way.

Nearly 500 homes were either damaged or destroyed during the storm, as people’s lives and memories disappeared within seconds.

On Tuesday, KCTV5 spoke to many people impacted by the tornado one year ago. Here are their stories. 

Oak Grove woman recalls terrifying night, 1 year after devastating tornado

Anna Smith was forced to pick up the pieces after the massive storm. She was alone the night the tornado hit and says she opened her front door and still remembers what she saw.

“It was so black and it had red twirling around in it and I said to myself, ‘I’m afraid I’m in for some trouble,’” Smith said.

Smith rode out the storm in her sewing room. She remembers the noise being so loud and the pressure so intense that she covered her ears and held her head in her hands. Then, she did the only thing she could think of.

“Started praying, that’s the only thing I could do,” Smith said. “The TV went off and it was on its way down.”

After the tornado had passed, Smith says a young man named Dylan came to her rescue. She says he stayed with her until her family was able to arrive.

"He was like an angel, that come in, because, it’s something you don’t want to go through," she said.

When Smith’s family came for her, they said they found a large hole in the room, and that they could even see the sky.

Much of her home was destroyed, except for the picture of her late husband. She believes he was with her the entire time and kept her safe.

Smith has not seen Dylan since that day but says she would like to find him so she can say thank you.

The path of the storm covered approximately 7 miles from beginning to end with intermittent touchdown.

Oak Grove Mayor Jeremy Martin praised the work of emergency responders and said "it's rather amazing" there were no serious injuries or deaths based on the extent of the damage in the area.

Family that lost home operated non-profit for residents

One couple impacted by the tornado continued to help other people while facing a difficult time of their own. 

The Parrs run the Community Service League in Oak Grove and even though they lost nearly everything, they wanted to keep the food pantry running. 

"I think it helped us focus on something else, if that makes sense," Gina Garr said. "It was normal. It felt as close to a home as we had at that point."

Their warehouse quickly became the epicenter of relief for hundreds of families. 

For the past year, they've distributed food, clothes and funding from other non-profits. 

"We were probably the only ones set up to do something similar in the first place," Rick Garr said. "They've started building on it. We stop by every now and then." 

High school sweethearts lived through storm together

One couple lived through the Oak Grove tornado together. 

Brenda and Bruce Johnson urge everyone to take tornado warnings seriously. They took shelter underneath their home seconds before the storm hit. 

"Everything was gone," said Brenda Johnson. "It was just rubble." 

One year later, a new house stands in its place, but the Johnsons have moved on. They now live on the other side of town where they're rebuilding a new home. 

"We hope the break ground this month," Brenda Johnson said. 

A year ago, Bruce's uniforms and patches from his days with the Missouri Highway Patrol lay scattered across his lawn. Brenda's wedding ring had been lost among the rubble. 

Thankfully, their daughter wouldn't give up on the search. 

"They dug through the grass and found my wedding ring," Brenda said. 

Previous coverage: 

Nearly 500 Oak Grove homes, businesses damaged in storms

Students return to class in Oak Grove

Positivity, resilience rises from tornado devastation in Oak Grove

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