Our team was debriefed and given our first work assignment Tuesday morning. We were going to Clara Childress’ home, a single woman who is afflicted by multiple sclerosis.

Her home suffered damage from the F5 tornado that hit Joplin on Sunday, May 22. She and her mother survived the tornado by riding it out in a bedroom closet.  

Childress said the sky had clouded over and tornado sirens began to sound but they soon ceased. She thought that it was just a severe thunderstorm warning.  Her mother looked out toward the backyard as ominous dark clouds approached.

In the distance, electric power transformers were exploding. Her mother told her to get the dogs inside; something unusual was happening. Both women brought the dogs inside and they all retreated into Childress’ bedroom closet. The women were looking outside the bedroom window from the closet space.

It grew as dark as night outside and they could hear a horrific thundering sound. That sound seemed to last an eternity. Suddenly, all the windows in the house blew out. At that moment, Childress’ mother slammed the accordion-type closet door. Her mother held the door shut. Childress, herself, would have never been able to keep that door closed due to her MS. The women were on the cell phone with Childress’ father during the strike and never lost connection.

The roof sustained damage. A 2-by-4 flew into the roof from another home and remained lodged for several weeks. Childress’ washing machine somehow was sucked out of the home and landed in the top of a nearby tree. Neighbors witnessed her backyard tool shed lift into the sky and disintegrate. No tools or other contents have ever been found.

After the event had ended, neighbors quickly checked on the women. Childress’ home is located on the southeast edge of the tornado’s path. Based on maps we’ve been shown, this area was the final zone hit by the tornado’s 6-mile long course.

Our team helped remove a deck, remove debris, landscape, begin siding the house, and prepare the foundations for a new deck. We plan on finishing the siding and complete the deck today.

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