Tornadoes in Joplin


Hi.  My name is Josh.  For a while, I have been using this blog to exclusively write reviews of board games.  I've debated back and forth in my mind for a while whether I wanted to include "site news" posts or not, but thus far have refrained.  However, something has happened that has caused me to go ahead and start that section.  Bluntly, my house was blown down in a tornado.


Here's the sucky part (I say that as if there's only one) - I was on vacation.  I and my spouse left for Miami on Saturday to take a fairly long 8 day vacation that we were both very excited about, and both felt like we really needed; I was somewhat burned out at work, and she had just completed her Master's.  After having a fairly lousy Sunday (locked out of the hotel room to where Engineering had to break the chain lock off, walked 2 miles to go to the wrong place, etc), we were just starting to relax.  Then I got the following text from one of my friends and co-workers who I have known for a long time: "Tornado hit Joplin.  Going to <in-law's house>.  Lots of downed trees.  Power will be out for days."  This immediately concerned us, but, honestly, I have been through enough tornadoes and lost power from them often enough, that I really didn't think too much about it.  I did, however, call them to try to get more information.  Was the tornado especially bad?  Where did it hit?  They were unsure.  After calling more people and turning on the Weather Channel, we started realizing that this really was a much bigger deal than we realized!  We started calling around trying to see if anyone could swing by our house to see if we even had a house.  The first report came back from a co-worker via text: "I really hate to text you this, especially when you should be having fun... but your house is mostly gone and your van is severely totalled" (keep in mind, most of the cell phone towers were down, so actually calling people in Joplin was tricky).  Now, you should know, that my office has a history of practical jokes.  Our team name is even based off of one (which came at this particular co-worker's expense) - so my first thing to do was to call and see if he was pulling a joke or not.  He was not.  I had another friend go by; reports confirmed.

Trying to Get Home

So, what do you do when you find out that your house is flattened?  Well, if you are like me, then you are worried about looters.  Now, specifically, in the high tech age, my main concern is identity theft.  Many of my documents including social security cards, etc, were suddenly relatively easy to steal (in my mind - though after seeing the actual house, I think it would have been a very dedicated looter to get to where I had stored them).  So, after calling the insurance adjuster, I was on the phone with Delta attempting to get back home.  The person I talked to was awesome.  Kudos.  He got me and my wife on a flight for the next day, and didn't charge any of the customary rebooking fees which would have normally run me around $700 from the pricings I had seen online.  So all that was left was to restlessly lay in bed until our flight the next afternoon.

We arrived in Atlanta with no real problems, but as many of you grizzled travelers know, that is when you have to run all the way across the airport to your next destination.  We did so, and then we were presented with something that we should have probably expected - the weather was still horrible.  Our flight was cancelled.  I won't go into the whole sob story of how frustrated we were for around 5 or more hours in Atlanta trying to get home, but eventually, we were able to get on a flight to Tulsa that landed at 10 PM CST.  (Keep in mind, we flew out of Northwest Arkansas, and so we had no car and no luggage.  My little joke to my wife was that the airline lost our luggage on purpose just to make sure that we had absolutely nothing; though in actuality, they just hadn't successfully sent any flights to Northwest Arkansas that night.)  We went to my parent's house, talked for a few hours, and then headed to Wal-Mart to buy the basics that we would need for the night - a change of clothes, contact solution, deodorant.  Then off to bed for some more restless sleep.

Digging Through Piles

Let me start this section by telling you - I am a very blessed individual.  I have never been more popular than since this tragedy occurred.  I have received numerous phone calls, texts, and even a BoardGameGeek forum all in an effort to help me.  I have already received several donations on Pay Pal, and many people have offered to help me refill my collection of games that I lose through this.  However, this section, specifically, is called digging through piles.

My phone rang at 8:00 AM this morning.  I honestly thought it was my alarm, and so I ignored it while waiting for my wife to hit snooze (it was on the floor charging (using our new charger we bought at the airport) since it had been in use much more than it's typical check on my Fantasy Baseball team and Twitter/Facebook feed).  Actually, it was one of my co-workers.  He said that they were planning on coming over to help me clean things up.  I didn't really think anything of this until I finally get ready to leave (you go on other people's schedules when you don't have a car, and my Dad had to run a delivery out for his business first thing in the morning).  I called my co-worker to let him know that I was on my way and, to my surprise, the response was "yeah, we're already here."  Now, Tulsa is an hour and a half drive to Joplin - almost exactly 100 miles from my parents door to mine (well, let's be honest; it used to be.  I don't know where my door is anymore!  You get the idea, though.)  A lot can be done in an hour and a half.  In fact, by the time that I got to the house, they had completely cleared out my basement and had uncovered all kinds of things - some that we will wind up keeping, and many more that we will wind up throwing away.  Again, I am blessed.  Without their help, I would have had no chance of saving everything that was saved, and it would have been infinitely longer and more exhausting - I definitely wouldn't have the energy to write this!  And, not only did they help, but other friends were calling and dropping by throughout the day.  Which is quite generous, because I am by no means the only one who was affected.  In fact, my boss, after helping cleanup my house, went to where his church used to be to try to help them out - though I don't honestly know what you do at that point!

During my digging, I really found several great surprises.  My wife was very sad that she had lost many things of sentimental value to her - some very meaningful pictures, some antique furniture that had been in her family for generations, etc.  She was still trying to get to Joplin after having to pick up our car from Northwest Arkansas, and so I knew that I really needed to keep an eye out for any of these things that could be saved for her.  Lo and behold - many were saved!  Randomly throughout the morning, someone would come up to me and show me a picture they had found and, viola! another thing that my wife could be excited about.  We were able to save her favorite picture of us as a couple (from when we were still dating), her favorite picture of her Mom, and also an old family picture from when she was a baby.  Most were probably water damaged, but the original is intact enough that we should be able to restore them.  Another item that I found was an envelope full of money (and my Gen Con money) - like many other people, I keep a supply of "petty cash" on hand at my house shoved in a random sock drawer-type location.  I figured that location was lost forever since it was in the back of the house, which was hit the hardest (and this would have been unfortunate, since the insurance only covers up to $100).  Lo and behold, I found my money - now I can afford to buy something new at Gen Con!  Sweet!  I and/or my fellow scavengers also found some of my more valuable baseball cards, autographed baseballs, DVD's, coins, and some other "useful" stuff.

Here's an aside about baseball.  I really like baseball; always have.  I remember watching it as a kid, and collecting billions of worthless baseball cards (worthless because of the timeframe of them, not the tornado - I got rid of most of those useless ones a long time ago).  In 2004, I decided that it would be neat to visit each baseball stadium and watch a live baseball game there (though with the rate they're building new stadiums, I feel I only have to watch the team once); my wife liked the idea so much that she decided that we needed to do this.  In case you're curious, we've been to the following since then: Kansas City, St. Louis, Texas, Houston, San Francisco, Oakland, Cincinnati, Minnesota (both the Metrodome and Target Field), Boston, Baltimore, Washington, and (on our very shortlived Miami vacation), the Florida Marlins.  I tell you all of this to let you know that I have kept the ticket stubs to each of these games.  We were also fortunate enough to get to go to the World Series last year to watch the Texas Rangers play (my wife is a die hard Rangers fan).  We had the World Series tickets framed, and the other tickets in a box in our closet that we were going to frame later.  I tell you all this to let you know - I found most of this stuff!  I know that I found the World Series tickets, and I also found many of the other ticket stubs (though they were a bit damp).  That was another exciting find!

"A Lesson For Board Gamers"

After digging through every part of the house, the last place to clear out was my board game closet.  I expected everything to be trashed - I mean, a pile of cardboard pieces with paper instructions among no roof and enough rain to cause significant flooding?  No chance.  However, as it turned out, the closet I used to store my board games seems to be the sturdiest room in our entire house!  Sure, I had lots of games that didn't make it - card games were triple their normal size, a game or two fell apart on me as I picked it up, and any game that wasn't in the closet at the time of the tornado was utterly obliterated (poor Lords of Vegas - I should have taken a picture of it, because it was impressively destroyed; no two parts were really in the same place).  How the shelves were setup in my game closet seemed to prevent most of the water from hitting the games, though.  At least, the games that were off the ground.  So, here are some lessons for board gamers: 1) pick up your games - poor Lords of Vegas didn't have a chance; 2) not just in the closet, but actually on the shelves; Punct was another one that by the end of the day was just squish; my new copy of At the Gates of Loyang was in the floor too (in the shrink!) and it got pretty soaked 3) choose a very sturdy location in the house to store your games.  I recommend a place that is very central, has no windows, etc, etc.  Basically, record a weather interruption where they tell you where to hide - that's where you want to put your board games.  Especially, because then in a tornado, you have entertainment!  (Though I hope none of you ever go through one.)

Things I Learned Today

First of all - I have too much stuff.  I plan on not replacing a lot of it.  Yeah, I'll probably keep buying games at a rate that is drastically unhealthy for anything but keeping the FLGS (friendly local game store) in business and allowing me to have new games to review on the site), but I will probably try to stop buying so much of everything else.  At least until I forget this lesson.  I'm thinking about framing one of these pictures to help remind me.  Seriously.

Second, there are a lot of things that happen in natural disasters that you would never think of.  Here's one of the things I'm trying to figure out - how do I get my lot cleared?  I will probably choose not to rebuild, and so I will be the owner of a very cluttered small plot of land in Joplin.  It has a basement.  How do I get that filled so that I'm not liable for somone falling into it and getting hurt?  I don't honestly know that, but since there are lots of other people in the same predicament, I'm hoping someone else can help with that.

Also, here are some other things that you don't really think of.  How recently have you had your tetanus shot?  I don't really know, and neither do most people that I talk to, and we're all digging through piles of board with rusty nails in them from almost a century ago.  Fortunately, Walgreen's was giving out free tetanus shots.  That's pretty cool, and I'm glad they were doing something you wouldn't have thought of.  Next, people get hurt and need blood.  You should give blood to your local blood bank if you are able to keep it stocked - you don't know when someone will need it.  Third (or so), it can be really hard to find places when you don't have any street signs or landmarks.  I've lived at my house for almost 4 years, driving up and down the same roads through that entire time, and I still had to pay really close attention so that I would know where I was and not pass my house!  There were also lots of insurance people, and concerned volunteers that were trying to find certain houses, which is very hard to do when there are no street signs and no addresses on houses.  Finally, if you are digging through piles of rubble, wear sunscreen!  As it turns out, I get a nasty sunburn when working in my house when it doesn't have a roof anymore.

Next Steps

Well, the next thing to do is to meet with my insurance agent.  I have what I believe to be a fairly standard home insurance policy where I have a certain amount for the house, a certain amount for external buildings, a certain amount for personal property, and a certain amount for relocation.  Well, I think that I should get the full amount for my external buildings (that clean piece of pavement is where I used to have a detatched garage).  I'm also guessing that my house will be marked as a total loss.  So, I need to work on a list of belongings for personal property that will add up to a higher total than what I have available - I don't want to shortchange myself by being lazy and not making a very good list.

The other next thing that I have to do is figure out where to live.  In a city of 40,000 to start with, when 30% of the city is destroyed, finding rental property within an hour is going to be challenging if not impossible.  Do you remember where I said earlier that I am blessed?  I lost track of how many people offered to let me stay at their homes.  I took one of them up on it!  However, as I do not want to overstay my welcome, I will need to figure out a more long-term solution soon.

If You Would Like To Help

If you would like to donate to me (which is actually not in any way why I wrote this), then feel free to use the PayPal link on the right of the blog in the "Support the Site" section.  If you would like to help the greater need, then I have posted some idea on the Board Game Geek forum that I mentioned earlier that you can see here.  Here's the short summary copied from over there:

If you want to give money to help the city of Joplin, the Red Cross seems to be a very good option - they seem to have stations setup across the city, they are running blood drives, giving out food and water, helping provide clothes, etc. Please try to make sure it is tagged for Joplin.

If you are interested in sending other things: used toys, extra board games (possibly those games that aren't geeky enough for you), clothes, shoes, etc, etc, or have some aversion to the Red Cross, my understanding is that College Heights Christian Church is serving as a dropoff point that is working with the United Way. You can check out for more info. Their address is:

College Heights Christian Church
4311 E. Newman Road
Joplin, MO 64801
(I would recommend marking the packages as "donations for tornado victims" or something similar so they know what is going on)

And their phone number (may be hard to get ahold of someone, I don't know) is 417.624.6915

Finally, if you are somewhat near Joplin, there may be a dropoff point near you (to where you don't have to pay for shipping). Check out

More Reading

If you would like to get a woman's perspective on this ordeal, my wife has decided to (at least temporarily) start a blog about the aftermath of the tornadoes. You can read about it here.

Apology For Bad Grammar And Typos

Normally I proof read these.  This one, however, is really, really, really long (if you made it this far, you already know this).  And I'm tired from dealing with several restless nights in a row.  So, I am not going to.  Please don't judge all of my writing based on the basic typos that I'm sure were in this post.  Who knows, I may come back in a few months and clean them up!


  1. One of the best tips I heard after our community was hit was to recreate your household items inventory by going to the places you normally shop and using a wedding registry to select the things that were in your kitchen, bath, garage, living room, etc. With the scanner guns you can quickly create a decent inventory complete with current market values.

    Also- take pictures of what is left of any improvements you may have made on the house in the past 4 years. These may be useful in your insurance claim.

    Your local building inspector/code enforcement can tell you how to deal with securing the basement. The basement from one uninsured house in our neighborhood was marked with caution for maybe a year before the basement was filled in.

    Even if your insurance company is wonderful, it's useful to know (because someone you know will have insurance problems) that insurance is regulated by each state's department of insurance. If someone has problems, this bureau can often help (though strength of regulation varies by state). We were able to get the DoI to hold community meetings at a local public library about two months after the tornado (when people were starting to find out the character of their insurers).

  2. Wow - what a crazy turn of events for you. What I liked about reading this was your sense of optimism even when faced with such a life changing catastrophe. Props to you! Good luck getting your bearings again, though I'm sure you have the right head space to make whatever you get, work for you!

  3. Oh, Josh... I am so sorry to hear about all of this, and so tremendously impressed with your ability to write something so positive in light of such destruction. I have two questions for you... 1) Did you own Last Night On Earth, and if so, did it make it? 2) If an old college friend were to send something to support you and your lovely wife, to which address would they send said something? You can e-mail me or message me on Facebook, or I might just harass Carrie to see if she has that info. Please let me know if there's anything I can do to make your lives easier in the coming months! --Holly K