Branson Recovery Continues after EF-2 Tornado

Recovery efforts continue today following the touchdown of an EF-2 tornado in Branson, MO in the early morning hours of February 29, 2012.  Fortunately, there were no fatalities in Branson, although a significant number of minor injuries and property damage occurred.

 “We are blessed that no one died due to this tornado, and our thoughts and prayers go out to those families who did lose loved ones as a result of this large storm system that affected much of the Midwest. We’ve been touched by the outpouring of support from around the nation. We forget how many years, and how many millions of guests we have welcomed to Branson. During times of great struggle, we are renewed by our guests’ love of Branson” said Branson Mayor Raeanne Presley.  33 moderate or slight injuries have been reported as a result of the storm in Branson. Most of the injuries were cuts and bruises although one more serious injury was reported.

 Most of the storm damage is in localized sections of W 76 Country Boulevard and the Branson Convention Center area. Meetings and conventions that were scheduled for the Branson Convention Center in upcoming weeks are being contacted regarding relocation in the area, many to Chateau on the Lake, which sustained no damage as a result of the storm.  Recovery and rebuilding efforts are continuing today, with many of the affected businesses reopening or scheduled to reopen in the coming days.  “The outpouring of support from surrounding communities has been outstanding, I had a lump in my throat when I saw a Joplin police cruiser on Highway 76,” says Dean Kruithof, Branson’s City Administrator. 

 All of W 76 Country Boulevard (also known as the world famous “Branson Strip”) reopened to traffic on March 1, and visitors are traveling to and from attractions, shows and restaurants unencumbered.  There will be restricted access on the western portion of W 76 Country Boulevard after 11 p.m. for the evening of March 2, but visitors will be able to get to and from shows playing every evening. 

 Although much of the damage caused by the tornado was localized to various sections of The Strip, numerous residents throughout Stone and Taney Counties were also affected.  Damage assessments to private homes are still underway.  Taney County tornado volunteer efforts to assist area residents with homes damaged by the storm are being managed by AmeriCorps St. Louis.  Representatives are currently working out of the Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce and Convention & Visitors Bureau located at 269 MO Hwy 248.  Individuals who need assistance may register at the Chamber by calling 417-243-2161, or via email at [email protected].  Volunteers are welcomed and AmeriCorps is currently collecting information from those who are able to help. Interested individuals can email [email protected] or sign up at www.VolunteerBranson.org.

 Branson Landing has made significant progress in recovery and is open today for business. The famous Branson Landing fountains resumed their scheduled performances at noon today.  There are still a small number of stores that are still closed for repairs, and consumers can visit www.BransonLanding.com to find out about stores still closed.  “We would like thank the city of Branson, our retailers, our contractors and our employees who have worked around the clock to restore the center for our shoppers, as well as the Branson Chamber, for the outstanding communication they have provided for the whole City of Branson via the ExploreBranson.com website,” said David Ayer, General Manager.  “Our thoughts and prayers are with those still recovering from the storms earlier this week.”

 Plans for Branson’s April 1 Centennial Celebration and Museum opening at 101 Veterans Blvd. are right on schedule according to celebration producer Bogie Bohinc.  Dick’s 5 & 10 Co-Owner Steve Hartley said merchants in Historic Downtown Branson are taking care of customers in their “usual friendly way,” and have been since just hours after the twister. “We were down a very short period, now we are ready to go. Branson’s spirit has shown what we are made of,” Hartley said.

 Power has been restored to the majority of the affected area, with only 400 utility customers still without electricity.  Empire District Electric reports that power will be restored to all customers by Saturday, March 3.  Numerous utility workers performed diligently to restore power to the area quickly after the storm.  Roughly 400 utilities personnel, contractors, insurance agents, police and other officials from outside of Branson, FEMA officials and volunteers are assisting in the recovery efforts.

 FEMA has completed their assessment of the damage done by the storm.  For the complete report please contact FEMA at 800/621-FEMA.

 Major attractions such as Silver Dollar City, Sight and Sound Theatre, and Showboat Branson Belle (while closed during the first quarter of the year), sustained no damage; TITANIC Museum Attraction, Hughes Brothers Theatre, RFD-TV The Theatre, IMAX Entertainment Complex, Tanger Outlet Mall, and numerous other theatres, attractions, restaurants and retail stores are also undamaged and remain open and welcoming visitors to the Live Music Show Capital of the World.

 Only six of the more than 50 theatres in Branson have sustained significant damage as a result of the storms. A list of scheduled show opening dates will be posted on www.ExploreBranson.com.  The majority of shows will open on schedule or have already opened for the 2012 season.  For March 2, 2012, shows playing in Branson include:

 •Hank Williams Revisited at The Little Opry Theatre

•Comedy Jamboree at The Grand Country Music Hall

•Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede Dinner Attraction

•Grand Jubilee at The Grand Country Music Hall

•Pierce Arrow at The Pierce Arrow Theatre

•Hamner Barber Variety Show at The Hamner Barber Theatre

•SIX at The Mickey Gilley Theatre

•it at the Hughes Brothers Theatre

•Branson Country USA Late Show at The Grand Country Music Hall

 22 of the more than 200 hotels in Branson have sustained damage as a result of the storms, with varying degrees of severity.  Estimated opening dates for those affected hotels will be posted on www.ExploreBranson.com.  Branson has more than 18,000 lodging units, and can host up to 60,000 visitors a day.  The storm damage has not substantially affected Branson’s lodging capacity, and the vast majority of lodging properties are open for business as usual.

 Mayor Raeanne Presley might have said it best when she said, “It is humbling to face the power of a destructive force such as this tornado.  Yet this is exactly the time our community has gathered their strength to rise above daily chores – to volunteer, donate, work long hours in cold and heat. While I am so sad for the loss of property, I am heartened to know our Branson will rise up stronger than ever.”

 For up to date information, situation updates, road closures, show schedule changes, affected attractions, restaurants, shops, etc. consumers should visit www.ExploreBranson.com or call 800-296-0463.

 Interview requests should be forwarded to Lynn Berry at [email protected] or 417/527-5670 [or Rob Klepper, Geiger & Associates, 850/933-8762 or [email protected]] for scheduling purposes only.  Representatives available for interviews are:

 Raeanne Presley, Mayor of Branson

Lynn Berry, Branson CVB Director of Public Relations

Dean Kruithof, City Administrator

Garrett Anderson, Economic Development Director

Ted Martin, Branson Fire Chief

 Branson, Missouri, nestled in the lakeside beauty of the Ozark Mountains, is America’s affordable, wholesome family entertainment capital that emphasizes fun, comfort and the feeling of being right at home. Featuring an array of live theaters and attraction venues and active recreational pursuits, the community embodies essential American values such as patriotism, faith, courage and generosity of spirit in a warm inviting atmosphere that is truly genuine and heartfelt.