Oak Grove recovers and rebuilds one year after devastating EF-3 tornado

Oak Grove residents are marking the first anniversary of the EF-3 tornado that struck the town, damaging close to 500 homes and businesses.

The early-season twister was one of dozens that struck three states the night of March 6, 2017.

Emergency Management Director Mark Sherwood was watching the weather closely, while city officials were upstairs following a board of alderman meeting. Some of them noticed Sherwood wasn’t with them, and that it could be a bad sign.

“They were kind of right,” Sherwood said. “We’ve had tornado warnings but (this was) the first damaging tornado since the 1940s.”

Help began arriving from all over just minutes after the tornado tore through town.

“All our neighboring fire departments were here,” Sherwood said. “We had units from as far away as Kearney.”

Among the survivors in Oak Grove was Sheri Bredehoeft and her daughter. They stayed in the basement when the storm hit. Bredehoeft’s husband was at work. Their home was so severely damaged it had to be torn down.

“We didn’t know what to do,” Bredehoeft said. “We had people telling us and helping us — that’s the only way we knew what to do.”

Mangled tree limbs remain in the Oak Hill subdivision. Nearly all the damaged homes have been repaired or replaced.

Twelve people were hurt in eastern Jackson County. Many residents say early warnings prevented people from being killed.

More than 60 homes were damaged by an EF-2 tornado the same night in Smithville.

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