Two teenagers in love. A retiree who would “give you the shirt off his back.” A woman with a fondness for her dog, and pigs. A young man who was the “life of the party.”
Those were the lives lost in the early-morning darkness Wednesday when a killer tornado tore through a remote village in a hilly area of southeastern Missouri. The Missouri State Highway Patrol said Thursday that all five victims were either in the same mobile home, or divided between the trailer and a small camper parked next to it.
“My baby,” Stormiee Mayberry, in a direct Facebook message, said of her 18-year-old son, Michael McCoy, one of the victims. “He was such a strong wonderful young man he was my everything.”
“I truly cannot talk right now,” she added. “It’s too much. Too much hurt.”
The tornado strafed a 22-mile (35-kilometer) stretch of land and destroyed much of the tiny rural village of Glenallen shortly after 3:30 a.m. Wednesday. It came during a week of violent storms and tornadoes, and another twister Wednesday night claimed a life in Kentucky, where three tornadoes touched down.
The Missouri victims were: Glenn Burcks, 62, who lived in the mobile home in Glenallen. Susan Sullivan, 57, also lived there, along with her 37-year-old nephew, James Skaggs. Also killed were Sullivan’s 16-year-old granddaughter, Destinee Nicole Koenig of Sikeston, Missouri, and McCoy, her boyfriend.
Highway Patrol Sgt. Clark Parrott said investigators aren’t sure if any of the victims were in the camper when the tornado hit.
The mobile home essentially exploded, leaving only scattered debris and a rusted metal chassis. Some shards of metal stuck to tree limbs. Tattered remains of furniture sat in a field. A few old photos, videotapes and even baseball cards dotted the mud near the home’s concrete pad.
McCoy’s uncle, Rustin Kinder, said the teenager’s dad and another uncle hurried to the trailer once they heard about the tornado. The uncle found McCoy badly injured in a field. Kinder said his nephew was rushed to a hospital but “just couldn’t hang on.”
Kinder described McCoy as charismatic and funny and said he was “young and in love” with Koenig, calling her McCoy’s “whole world.”
“He basically had a bright future, you know, but he didn’t even get a chance to have a family,” Kinder said. “And, you know, it’s just sad, really.”
Koenig was a sophomore at New Madrid High School and loved animals, especially cats and dogs. Principal Justin Poley said the school is offering help for students dealing with the loss of their classmate.
“She did have quite a few friends that are having a difficult time right now,” Poley said.
Burcks was “a sweet and giving man, and he’d give the shirt off his back for you,” his sister-in-law, Dorothy Burcks, said. Glenn Burcks considered Sullivan and her relatives family.
Burcks had worked at a saw mill but was in ill health and was retired, Dorothy Burcks said.
“He lived out in the country all his life,” she said. “He loved country. He didn’t like the town life or the city life.”
Sullivan worked as a teacher for Head Start for about 15 years, according to her obituary. She had a fondness for her dog, “Baby,” and for pigs.
Skaggs “loved to take pictures, have fun and be the life of the party,” his obituary stated. His cousin, Joseph Skaggs, described him as "good to be around.”
"He had a good heart. I mean, he loved everybody," he said. “All the time make you laugh.”
Joseph Skaggs said his sister’s home also was destroyed. “You really can’t do anything but try to pick up the pieces and keep going,” he said.
A funeral service for Koenig, and memorial services for Sullivan and Skaggs, will be Monday in nearby Marble Hill. Arrangements were incomplete for Burcks and McCoy.
In Kentucky, Jefferson County Deputy Coroner Steve Moran identified the victim as Billy Corum, 30, of Louisville. Moran said Corum was walking his dog near his home Wednesday when high winds knocked over a tree that struck Corum in the head.
Preliminary findings on Thursday indicated that the tornadoes struck two areas of Louisville, meteorologist Brian Neudorff said. The storm toppled trees and power lines and tore the roof off an apartment building.
A separate tornado with maximum winds of 110 mph (177 kph) touched down in the Brandonburg area of Mead County, less than an hour southwest of Louisville, Neudorff said.
Bob Oravec, a lead weather service forecaster, said more severe weather was possible Thursday in an area stretching from eastern Texas to the mid-Atlantic states.
Salter reported from O’Fallon, Missouri, and Hollingsworth reported from Mission, Kansas. Jennifer Garske and Nancy Benac in Washington, D.C., and John Raby in Charleston, West Virginia, contributed to this report.
What to do if a tornado hits your home: https://apnews.com/article/tornado-home-destroyed-what-to-do-42ab3f90a3b129acf6b1d2ddaded754b