Punxsutawney Phil was wrong. Spring came early. With it came a round of severe weather that hit several states from Kansas to Tennessee. One of the places hit by a tornado was popular country music fan destination Branson, Missouri.
An EF2 tornado hit Branson overnight on Leap Day. The famous center of the town's tourism, the "theater strip" where dozens of venues hosting music shows, suffered minimal damage according to the town's mayor, Raeanne Presley, in a statement on the Branson tourism web site. Most of the theaters will resume shows on Thursday (March 1) after being closed tonight (2/29) for clean-up. According to news reports, only the Branson Variety Theater suffered significant damage.
Hotels, however, were also hit by the twister. The assistant manager of the downtown Hilton Hotel told the Associated Press that lives were spared by it being the "off season" in Branson. "If it was a week later, it'd be a different story," Bill Tirone said.
Branson residents escaped with no fatalities. Nearly 40 people were injured, but nearly all were reported to be very minor in nature. The storms killed ten in Missouri, Illinois and Tennessee.