Larry and Karen Bailey were still stunned Friday morning as they surveyed the ruins of their home after a strong EF2 tornado ripped through.
But they also feel fortunate to be alive, with bits of the insulation from their home now stuck on fences and in trees.
Larry Bailey wasn't expecting a tornado to hit his home, but then again, who does?
The moments were desperate for Bailey when the unexpected early spring tornado swept through their home.
He said he's watched storms come through his area for years, and it looked like this one had already come and gone. Then he looked out at the small lake behind his rural home.
"First thing I saw was that water coming up out of that lake," Bailey said. "It was like it was sucking all of the water out of that lake down there. And I knew it was bad and by that time it was already taking the roof off and everything was going crazy."
But he stayed calm and headed for the basement when he realized his wife hadn't followed him.
"I was downstairs and she was upstairs," said Bailey. "The roof started falling in on her. I'm screaming at her."
He and his wife, Karen, have been married 50-some years, he said.
The living room gives some indication what he could hear above him. The wood roofing beams are speared through the floor. The back end of the sofa is ripped off. The chimney is on the living room floor. The furnace sits atop what remains of the roof. Through all this commotion, the couple was separated. They could not get to each other.
"I could hear her scream," Bailey said, choking back tears.
When the sounds of destruction went silent, he heard something else. It is perhaps the only time a husband hears his wife holler at him and is happy about it. She had managed to duck for cover underneath the kitchen table. The roof and ceiling were flung toward the sky.
She avoided sharp objects and the glass from a television.
"I ran to the stairway and I couldn't get up through there because there was lumber in it and when I could hear her was when I knew she was all right," said Bailey. "I just moved some stuff out of the way and then we met halfway and I said get on down here. It's going to be all right."
They hugged tight before they stepped outside the ruins of their home as Bailey tried to comfort his grief-stricken wife.
His wife was too shaken to talk with strangers both Thursday and Friday morning, so she let Larry do the talking to the news media. But there were plenty of neighbors to help them in their town of 78 people.
Some pulled out the big items, furniture and appliances left intact. Others looked through the kitchen and filled laundry baskets with cookie jars and other knick knacks.
"If nothing else, save the booze!" one of them said.
Bailey and the rest of his family were touched by the quick response by neighbors.
"They were here like that," he said with a snap of his fingers Friday morning as he recounted his ordeal.
Thursday night, Bailey examined the wall of canned goods and pointed to three rows of liquid-filled Ball jars.
"Home canned tomato juice," he said, drawing a news photographer's attention to it. "Best you'll ever have."
He covered a giant contraption nearby with a blue tarp and hoped aloud that no rain came overnight.
"This is the quilting machine that my wife works on all the time," he explained. "She does quilting. She has super, super quilts."
The house is one that's been home to them for 20 years, a place their Lee's Summit grandkids loved to visit "out in the country." All that matters. But so does family. Thursday's experience only reinforced what Larry Bailey already knew about that. When the insurance money comes in, he said there's a good chance he will pick up stakes and settle closer to the grandkids.
The Bailey's home was the most damaged in Grundy County. Most of the damage was to barns and sheds while a second home lost a roof and had some windows blown out.
The couple was meeting with an insurance adjuster Friday.
The National Weather Service determined that three tornadoes from a single system carved a path of more than 50 miles. Two tornadoes in Daviess County were EF2s. The twister that destroyed the Bailey's home in Grundy County was determined to have 130 mph winds, which makes it a strong EF2 tornado. A tornado with winds of 136 mph or more is considered an EF3 tornado. The strongest tornadoes, such as the one that struck Joplin in 2011, are EF5s.
Because the twisters were moving at 50 mph, that limited the damage.
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