The information in this FAQ is based on the Branson Tourism Center’s local Branson experience in answering questions and dealing with the constantly evolving situation since the tornado hit during the early morning hours of February 29, 2012. It is current as of March 8, 2012 and any changes after that date, will be dated and added after the question to which the change pertains. Please feel free to call the Branson Tourism Center at 1-800-785-1550 for additional information.
1. If I came to Branson would I expect to see blocks of destroyed buildings like there were in the Joplin? No. Joplin was hit by a multiple vortex EF-5 tornado with winds between 200 and 322 mile per hour which killed 160, injured more than 990 and caused a wide swath of destruction while it stayed on the ground as it tracked through. The damage caused by the Branson Tornado is limited to the specific locations where it touched down as it stayed in the air for most of its track while going through Branson.
2. Is Branson really open for Business? Yes, the vast majority of all Branson businesses, not just its tourism related businesses, were not damaged by the tornado.
3. What about the theatres that were damaged? Only three of the theatres on the Branson Strip were damaged severely enough to impact their operation, the Branson Variety Theatre, Americana Theatre and Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theatre and all three are expected to be back in operation within about 45 days. All other Branson Theatres are operating as scheduled and those scheduled to open their 2012 season later in the month or April are expected to open on schedule. For example, two of Branson’s pioneer shows, The Baldknobbers Jamboree, “Branson’s first show,” and Presleys’ Country Jubilee, “the first show on the Branson Strip,” will be joining the many Branson shows already performing as they open their 2012 season this weekend. Click here for a full schedule of Branson shows.
4. Was Silver Dollar City damaged by the tornado? No, the tornado did not damage Silver Dollar City at all. It is scheduled to start its 2012 season on March 15 with its “Family Spring Break Days.”
5. Did the storms impact on Table Rock Lake or its activities? Although there was some damage in the Kimberling City area, located the other side of the lake from Branson, there was no damage effecting any recreational or other use of Table Rock Lake in the Branson/Indian Point area and Table Rock Lake is ready to offer Branson guests its full spectrum of water recreational activities. In addition, the Showboat Branson Belle, State Park Marina, State Park Camp Ground, Moonshine Beach and the Dewey Visitors Center were not impacted by the tornado.
6. What was the tornado’s impact on lodging? We saw horrendous pictures of the Hilton and other lodging properties that were damaged. Although, the tornado did damage a few of Branson’s lodging facilities, it has not “substantially affected Branson’s lodging capacity, and the vast majority of lodging properties are open for business as usual.” On a daily basis, Branson has over 18,000 rooms of every type and price range and can accommodate in excess of 60,000 guests. The Hilton, which was featured in the media coverage of the tornado, took a direct hit when the storm was at its highest, and is expected to reopen within less than 100 days.
7. Was the Branson Convention Center damaged? Yes, among other things it received glass and roof damage. It is estimated that it will be operational within 30 to 60 days. In the interim, at the option of the event’s sponsors, and subject to availability, events that were scheduled in the Branson Convention Center are being relocated to Chateau on the Lake or other suitable locations, which sustained no damage.
8. How about the shopping? We heard that Branson Landing sustained major damage. All of Branson Landing, including all its shops, restaurants and famed Water and Fire Fountain is open. Even though its anchor stores, Belks and Bass Pro Shops were never closed, its promenade area was closed for a couple of days to clean up debris and glass from the minor damage it received and had blown in from elsewhere. The shops of historic downtown Branson, including its biggest attraction, the famed “Dicks 5 & 10,” as well as Tanger Mall, The Shoppes at Branson Meadows, IMAX Complex, Grand Village Shoppes and the vast majority of the specialty shops that Branson is noted for are all open and ready to provide that great shopping experience for which Branson is noted.
9. Are most of Branson’s restaurants open? Although the storm did damage a few restaurants, the vast majority of Branson’s restaurants were not damaged and visitors to Branson will have absolutely no problem finding just about any food they want to eat.
10. If you were me, knowing what you know, would you bring your family to Branson for a vacation this summer? In a heartbeat. In 1975 I was you and in 1986 I moved to Branson. It is with all honesty that I can answer the question so empathically in the positive.
11. Describe the Tornado that hit Branson? It was an EF-1 and EF-2 tornado, originating just west of Kimberling City, Missouri at approximately 1:15 a.m. on February 29, 2012. It traveled east for approximately 22 miles before dropping out of the EF1 classification in the vicinity of Kissee Mills, Missouri, approximately 19 minutes later. It was estimated to be about 400 yards wide, traveled at speeds of between 60-70 miles per hour, had wind speeds of between 85 and 135 miles per hour and tracked through Branson from the west roughly paralleling State Route 76, the famed “Branson Strip before it entered downtown town Branson and exited to the east over the top of Mount Branson.
12. Why do you describe it as an EF-1 and EF-2 tornado? Isn’t it one or the other? It is described that way because the official track of the tornado, named, “The Kimberling City – Branson – Kissee Mills Tornado” by the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Springfield, Missouri, shows that it fluctuated between an EF-1, with winds between 86 and 110 miles per hour and an EF-2, with winds between 111 and 135 miles per hour, at different spots as it hit Branson.
13. The media coverage gave the impression that Branson was destroyed. How extensive was the loss of life and damage? First and most important of all, there was no loss of life and relatively few injuries. As impossible as it might seem, based on the media reporting of the tornado, the vast majority of the property in Branson, located 600 within yards of the center of the path that the tornado traveled, was not seriously damaged, including the vast majority of Branson’s theatres, businesses, residences, attractions, shopping, lodging, infrastructure and its historic downtown district.
14. How could that be if the tornado’s path was basically down the “Branson Strip” and through the downtown? The blessing was that, as the tornado traveled through Branson, it touched down with seeming surgical precision, in relatively few spots. Unfortunately, for the property located where it did touchdown, there was damage, some of it severe, but overall the vast majority of the property in Branson escaped unscathed.
With the exception of a few shows that may or may not be open by the time you visit Branson, everything that Branson is famous for from Silver Dollar City to Branson Landing, attractions, live shows and entertainment, shopping, natural beauty, lakes, and everything else that makes Branson such a special place is ready to provide you and your family the same wonderful vacation experience it has been providing for decades.
One of the miracles of the tornado was that, in addition to no loss of life, it damaged as little of Branson as it did thus providing it with the means to “heal itself” while providing millions with fun, relaxation, entertainment and excitement that will give them and their families a wonderful vacation and memories that will last a lifetime.
Interestingly, even as this is being written on the morning of March 7, an estimated 16,000 to 20,000 people are enjoying all that Branson has to offer in connection with attending the 21st NAIA Division II Men’s Basketball Championships being conducted at the College of the Ozarks through March 13.