By JEFF DURBIN, Missourian staff writer
April 11, 1999

Bob Allee was making dinner when Thursday's tornado swept through western Boone County. His wife happened to be in Columbia that evening.

"If she would've been here, I would've been out in the shop working," Allee said. "It wouldn't have been a fun ride."

Allee used to have an auto body shop next to his house. Now all that remains is a concrete floor. But the mood was upbeat Saturday as friends, family and about 20 Hickman High School students showed up to help Allee, an instructor in the Career Center at Hickman.

Thursday's tornado came over a rise about four miles north of Midway and hit several houses, shredding treetops, crushing a barn and scattering debris over farm fields. Then the twister headed northeast toward Hallsville, touching down several times on its 15-mile path through the county.

John Rychnovsky, Allee's father-in law, got a call from Allee immediately after the tornado and drove more than four hours the next morning from Iowa.

"I came down a couple years ago and helped build it, and now we came to clean it up," he said.

As a friend bulldozed the remains of the auto body shop on Saturday, Pete Kephart worked in a field downwind of the house putting chunks of wood and litter in piles.

"He didn't have to call anybody," Kephart said.

Shortly before the tornado struck, Allee and his two sons, Adam and Eric, were watching the Disney Channel and getting ready to eat their spaghetti dinner. Then the channel was cut off, and as Allee fiddled with the TV, he tuned into a local announcement of the approaching storm. Allee sent his sons into a playroom in the basement and took down their plates. About 30 seconds later, the tornado hit.

"I could feel the house start to creak," he said. "I saw the swing set tumbling over the fence line, and then the house lifted and shifted left."

Allee pushed his sons under the landing of the stairs as dust poured in, but the house was left in one piece.

At least three people died in an evening and night of Midwest twisters. In Boone County, more than 20 homes were damaged, said Lt. John Metz of the Boone County Fire Protection District. A mobile home was destroyed, and about two dozen vehicles and more than 20 agricultural buildings were also damaged.

The local chapter of the American Red Cross is ready with mental health counseling and emergency help for tornado victims.

The family services staff has met with about six families and has provided food, clothing and, in one case, a motel room, said Sandy Keller, assistant director of the chapter.