Weather Vault: A deadly tornado tore through Republic, Springfield in 1983

Published: May. 4, 2018 at 4:50 AM CDT
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While thankfully being spared the brunt of tornadoes in recent years, the city has certainly experienced its share of deadly springtime storms. One of the worst took place on April 29, 1983, which was exactly 30 years ago this week.

"They always say it looks like a bomb went off. And that is exactly what it looked like, said Mary Magnus, a current teacher at Springfield Lutheran School who was a worker at Redeemer Lutheran Church in 1983.

"We were in charge of the youth group. And the youth actually met that night, and we were going to meet here. But they decided to go to one of the kids homes north of town. They were up there hanging out when they got the call- do not come back into town."

Much of the building of Redeemer Lutheran Church was gone. It sat right in the middle of a five square mile disaster zone carved by a tornado just after 9:00 p.m. on April 29, 1983. The storm impacted parts of Republic before lifting and touching back down near Fort St. and Battlefield Road in Springfield. The storm tore across Campbell St. north of a Dillons grocery store- which is now Springfield Incredible Pizza Company. While continuing on its trek through neighborhoods just to the north of Battlefield Road, the tornado demolished more than 50 homes and businesses. One 16-year old girl was killed, and more than two dozen other people were injured.

Mary explained, "The aftermath, I think, is probably just as scary thinking about what it could have been, what could have happened. And just the damage. the damage was just unbelievable. We didn't even know how to start or begin over."

Begin again they did...alongside all their neighbors.

The remaining physical reminders are few. But, we are urged not to forget.

KY3 Chief Meteorologist Ron Hearst explained, "We haven't really had a huge event since Joplin and so people kind of- out of sight, out of mind kind of a thing. But I think in some ways that is dangerous.

He added, "Springfield or Greene County averages a tornado once every nine years. And while the last bunch has been small, we are kind of getting due. I think it would be to everybody's benefit to always keep that in the back of their mind.

"Oh yes, it can happen anywhere. You can't say it's not going to happen. You have to be prepared for it. Follow those guidelines, know where you re going to go, have a plan."

May tends to be the busiest time for tornadoes in southwest Missouri. This week (Friday) also happens to mark 15 years since the deadly tornadoes that struck Pierce City, Stockton, and the City of Battlefield.