Branson recovering after tornado damages area
As everyone knows, our neighbors in Branson were hit by an EF-2 tornado early on the morning of Feb. 29. Because of our proximity, we share many visitors with Branson each year and have many friends there.
For those who had plans to visit Branson, there is a list of businesses affected by the tornado at www.ExploreBranson.com. Only six of the more than 50 theaters in Branson sustained significant damage as a result of the storms. The majority of shows will open on schedule or have already opened for the 2012 season.
A total of 22 hotels in Branson sustained storm damage, with varying degrees of severity. Estimated opening dates for those affected hotels will be posted on www.ExploreBranson.com.
"Folks in the Ozarks are just good people," said Lynn Berry, director of public relations for the Branson Chamber/CVB. "I was told about an older couple from Arkansas staying at a Best Western on Highway 76. When the sirens sounded and the storm hit, the motel staff helped the couple to safety and then found them another lodging. The next day, the couple's grandson showed up at the motel with chain saw in hand and helped staff remove trees and debris. He wanted to thank them for helping his grandparents."
Recovery and rebuilding efforts continue, with many of the affected businesses reopening or scheduled to reopen in the coming days.
"I drove down The Strip, and I'm amazed that so many of the damaged areas look more like a construction zone than a disaster zone. We've still got a ways to go, but the progress made so far to those damaged areas has been remarkable," said Dean Kruithof, Branson's city administrator.
All of W. 76 Country Boulevard, known as the Branson Strip, reopened to traffic on March 1, and visitors are reported traveling with only infrequent restricted access to certain sections to accommodate utility crews.
The City of Branson has secured the resources of the Structural Assessment and Visual Evaluation (SAVE) Coalition to tour the damaged commercial properties in the community. This coalition is made up of volunteer structural engineers and architects that will go to each damaged building, evaluate the building condition and post it with color coded 8 ½ x 11" signage.
Meanwhile, the 52nd Plumb Nellie Days Arts and Craft Festival, The 24th Fiddle Festival and the 39th Autumn Daze Arts and Craft Festival are still in the works, and Branson's April 1 Centennial Celebration and Museum opening in the downtown's business area are also on schedule.
Dick's 5 & 10 co-owner, Steve Hartley, reports that about 15 percent of the businesses in Historic Downtown suffered some loss and are quickly moving toward reopening.
Up-to-the-minute info can be found on the Branson Facebook page at facebook.com/bransoncvb.