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Girl killed in tornado in southern Missouri


Caulfield, MO –

The loss of a 7-year-old girl killed by a tornado will be felt across this rural Ozarks community, where many people knew her and her family.

Elizabeth Croney died Thursday when a twister spawned by an early morning line of storms shredded her family's mobile home on a remote country road, injuring her parents and two older brothers.

Howell County Sheriff Robbie Crites said the Croneys were a long-established local family and the girl was a schoolmate of some of the children of his officers and other first responders to the disaster.

"A lot of people know each other here," Crites said. "It's tough when so many people knew her (Elizabeth) or their own young kids knew her."

The twister struck around 6:30 a.m. as the Croney family was getting ready for work and school.

The tornado, described by witnesses as a fat black column that cut a 15-mile swath across Howell County, also destroyed a gas station, damaged homes and toppled trees and power lines. Crites said it looked like the damage came from one twister that jumped from spot to spot.

Injured were Elizabeth's mother, Tamera Croney; father, Jay; and brothers Austin, 8, and Anthony, 10. They were taken to hospitals in West Plains and Springfield.

A neighbor less than a mile from the Croneys heard the tornado pass as she took refuge in a bathroom.

"It sounded like gravel and rocks being thrown against the house. It was a roaring noise," said Fran Meek, 63, whose two-story white farmhouse was untouched, although the wind knocked down a huge oak tree just feet from her front porch.

"We were so lucky," she said.

The site of the Croney's mobile home, about 12 miles northeast of Caulfield, was devastated. Only cinderblocks remained where the trailer had stood. A large silvery piece of siding hung from a tree about 50 feet away, but the only other pieces of the mobile home still visible were shreds of insulation.

Several relatives scoured the woods for possessions Thursday afternoon. The site had been a salvage yard, and car parts, metal and other scrap covered the woods. An old school bus was blown into trees nearly 100 feet from where it had been parked.

"We've found some pictures and this and that. I'm picking up whatever looks important," said Kermit Collins, 42, a cousin.

"I don't believe they had any warning. The way I heard it, Jay was just getting dressed for work," Collins said.

It took paramedics about an hour to reach the home because they had to use chain saws to cut through debris blocking the road, Crites said.

In nearby Caulfield, Rick Jarvis, 48, said he heard the tornado rip through the gas station he owns next to his home, which suffered just minor damage.

"It sounded like a herd of horses tearing up stuff. When I came out it was done," said Jarvis, who owns Jarvis Station on U.S. 160 in Caulfield.

The twister ripped off the station's roof, back wall and garage and tore up the signs and pavilion over the pumps.

The burst of tornadic activity was part of a larger line of thunderstorms and snowstorms that stretched from Minnesota to Louisiana.

Such severe storms are unusual for this time of year, "but it's not unheard of," said Mike July with the National Weather Service in Pleasant Hill.


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