Community reflects on Carl Junction tornado and recovery

CARL JUNCTION, Mo. – On Lakeview Lane, work is nearing completion on one of the final houses that was heavily damaged in the EF3 Carl Junction tornado. The foreman on this project recalls the first time he saw the devastation and the look of despair on people’s faces.

“It’s heartbreaking, it really is. It’s hard to walk in and see people suffering, especially a total loss like this. I mean this one was stripped down to the studs…it’s basically a new house because we repaired it completely,” explained James Nichols with Unified Construction.

Across the street lives Mike Larson, a longtime CJ resident who took shelter elsewhere with family during the storm, only to come home to an unrecognizable neighborhood. He was one of the first residents to make repairs and move back in, but it was lonely for awhile.

“After the tornado, for about a month, there was no neighbors around here. Everyone had moved out, so it was kinda eerie that there wasn’t anybody around,” said Larson.

Despite the damage, volunteers immediately got to work, pitching in to bring this area back to life.

“The next day, there were so many people here and everybody was wanting to help and they did help. They came with skid loaders and was moving stuff for us. We were overwhelmed with the number of people, and we didn’t know any of them, they just came from everywhere,” said Larson.

This street was one of the hardest hit areas by the tornado, but looking at it now, a year later, it’s clear the community has come a long way.

“It’s like the Joplin tornado, the community really comes together in a time of crisis and it’s good to see that, makes you proud to work for those people,” said Nichols.

The City of Carl Junction is still working with FEMA on funding for disaster relief. CJ City Administrator, Steve Lawver, says the long process of filling out the proper documentation has been made longer by the coronavirus, as program managers were reassigned.