The buoyancy of Missourians amazed the nation during the first ten days of March after an EF-2 tornado touched down on the famous Branson Strip on February 29. When the sun rose the morning of the Branson tornado, crews were already hard at work assessing the damage and clearing away the debris.
All were thankful that no lives were lost and the city was not carried away. The quick recovery of the tourist community gives an impression that the news—as one famous Missourian said about the report of his demise—was “greatly exaggerated.” Unlike Mark Twain’s condition at the time, however, Branson does have a few scars.
Damage to the Branson Strip was greatest in the area of the Branson Convention Center, which is also the area where 33 people were moderately or slightly injured. The strip was shut down for hours, but it reopened to traffic the following day, March 1. Tourists were detoured in a few places where utility workers were busy restoring power.
The Convention Center, which was expected to take more than a month to repair, was forced to relocate events such as the Branson Bridal Show and Dancing with the Stars of Branson. The Hilton Promenade and Chateau on the Lake were not damaged in the Branson tornado and were able to pick up some of the slack.
Known for its great shows, Branson has more than 50 theaters and all but two escaped the Branson tornado. The two that were damaged the worst, Baldknobbers Jamboree and Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theatre, delayed their shows. Most of the shows in Branson were not postponed or changed so tourists will have no shortage of good entertainment.
Safety was an issue in some of the area’s delays. The Branson Scenic Railway was damaged by the Branson tornado and had to undergo a safety inspection before it was allowed to operate again. It was found in good condition and began taking on passengers about a week after the tornado. Big attractions like Silver Dollar City and TITANIC Museum were littered by debris but not damaged. More than a broom was needed at the Veteran’s Memorial Museum where the plane and sculpture in front of received some damage, but the museum was not damaged.
Folks planning to attend Branson’s April 1 Centennial Celebration and Museum can pack their bags for a fun event, everything is right on schedule. The Branson tornado didn’t touch the area where the city is planning its 100th birthday celebration, which is expected to last 100 days. Those flying into the Live Music Show Capital of the World will be comforted to know that the Branson Airport was not affected by the storm. A few restaurants and malls saw damage and some had to be closed for repairs, but most of those opened quickly.
Thankfully Thousand Hills and most Branson businesses were largely untouched by the storm, and are standing ready for your vacation needs this summer.