Joplin native describes living through tornado

Monday, May 23, 2011 | 11:43 a.m. CDT; updated 2:16 p.m. CDT, Monday, May 23, 2011

View Katy Berryman's story of the tornado that hit Joplin in a larger map

JOPLIN — Driving back to her house in storm-struck Joplin Sunday evening, MU senior Katy Berryman wasn’t sure what she would find.

“If the storm had been two blocks over, I could’ve lost everything,” Berryman said.

The tornado, which devastated downtown Joplin on Sunday evening, flattened buildings from 26th Street to 15th Street, Berryman said. Berryman’s home is located at 28th Street and Michigan Avenue.

The house Berryman lived in for about eight years, until she was a sophomore in high school, was flattened. That home, located at 26th Street and Connecticut Avenue, is roughly half a mile from Berryman’s current home.

“There’s a little siding missing, but for the most part our house is fine, but there’s no power or water,” Berryman said. “Several of my friends’ houses are completely flat.”

Early in the evening, Berryman was running errands with her mother, Debbie Mulkey.

“They weren’t making a big deal about it. The reports were saying Jasper County was under a severe thunderstorm warning. They said it was a slow moving storm at about 20 miles per hour,” Berryman said.

As they were cooking dinner at about 5:30 p.m., Berryman’s step-father, Bill Mulkey, suggested the family go to Berryman’s sister’s home because it has a basement.

“We left our house at about 6:10 p.m., and got to my sister’s at 6:15 p.m.,” Berryman said. “It was a miracle of God that we made it to my sister’s house. We were driving into a huge dark patch. At first it was sprinkling, then trees were bent and it felt like our car was being lifted off the road.”

After spending about 30 minutes in her sister’s basement, located at 35th Street and Moffet Avenue, Berryman turned on a radio in her sister’s car and began to hear reports of the devastation.

After returning home, Bill Mulkey walked to his mother’s home at 23rd Street and Iowa Avenue. Everything was flat, including the house, Berryman said.

“Even the linoleum was ripped up from the kitchen floor,” Bill Mulkey said.

Bill Mulkey’s 91-year-old mother, Nadine Mulkey, and his sister, Myra Koenke, were both gone. Nadine Mulkey’s wheelchair was lying in front of the rubble.

The family finally discovered the two were at a hospital in Springfield but are still unsure of their conditions, Berryman said.

“His sister, one of her arms was almost gone, other than that we don’t know,” Berryman said.

Amidst the destruction, Berryman said she is incredibly thankful her home is intact.

“The waiting game of coming back from my sister’s and not knowing if I had a house was one of the hardest things I’ve ever dealt with,” Berryman said.

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