Businesses stunned after massive tornado hits Joplin

By Clarissa Kell-Holland, Land Line staff writer | 5/23/2011

While his shop is technically open, Bryan “Bossman” Martin, owner of 4 State Trucks and Chrome Shop Mafia, says business is far from anyone’s minds a day after a devastating tornado ripped through the heart of Joplin, MO, around 6 p.m. on Sunday, May 22.

Martin told Land Line on Monday, May 23, that his shop wasn’t touched by the tornado, but that other businesses in the community weren’t nearly as lucky. His shop is located at exit 4 at the junction of I-44 and Highway 43.

“Exit 8 is Joplin’s lifeline, and the tornado went right down the middle of the four-lane on Rangeline Road,” he said. “”It left such a wide footprint and it was moving so slow that it just stripped the ground of everything above it.”

To make matters worse on Monday, Martin said it was pouring rain as crews searched through the wreckage for missing Joplin residents.

His business was operating on a “skeleton crew” as those of his employees who weren’t affected by the tornado worked with the American Red Cross, the National Guard and the city of Joplin to aid in relief efforts.

“I have lived here for 43 years, and I can’t even get my bearings in some residential districts because there are no familiar landmarks left in some areas,” Martin said. “This tornado just stripped everything – just wadded it up and mangled everything in its way.”

Another business untouched by the tornado was the Joplin Petro, also located at exit 4.

“Amazingly, Joplin 44 Petro did not sustain any damage and all employees are accounted for,” according to Heather DeBaillie, marketing manager for CAT Scale Co./Iowa 80 Group.

She told Land Line on Monday that five Petro employees lost their homes in the tornado.

The Love’s Travel Stop and Country Store at MO-43 Exit 4 was also spared. It was open for business Monday.

However, the Flying J, located at exit 11, was directly in the tornado’s path and is still closed after sustaining heavy damage. Many trucks were blown over and a number of them damaged, but there were no fatalities reported at the truck stop.

Despite sustaining some damage in Sunday’s tornado, Con-Way Truckload, headquartered in Joplin, was up and running on emergency generator power on Monday.

“The company is in communication with its drivers and customers, is accepting customer orders, and is dispatching trucks,” Amber Caron-Caouette of Con-Way stated in a release on Monday.

According to the release, the main building had limited damage, but the maintenance facility sustained the most severe damage and “about 30 mostly empty trailers and two tractors in the yard were damaged or destroyed.”

In the release, Caron-Caouette said the company has approximately 500 employees at the Joplin headquarters.

“At this point, we have little information on employees and their families, and we do not know the extent of damage or injuries suffered,” she said. “We are hopeful that as more employees continue to check in we will be able to update the status of our people and their homes.”

Danielle Wheeler, the daughter of an OOIDA employee, lives in Joplin. On Monday, using generator power, she was working to feed those displaced by the tornado with her fiancé’s family’s Tokyo Japanese Steakhouse, located off Rangeline Road.

“We have been cooking what food we have and are taking it to area shelters,” Wheeler said.

Besides a break in the weather, Martin said cell reception was badly needed in the area. On Monday, Verizon Wireless announced they were sending three cell towers to Joplin after many were damaged.

As for Martin, he said this is a time when “communities come together and heroes are made.”

“This affects much more than just our customer-base. These are our people. We’ve been nowhere but here,” Martin said. “This is now about neighbor helping neighbor. This is where communities come together and heroes are made just by a regular guy trying to help another out.”

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