Branson Auto Museum displays

A tornado with 130-mile-per-hour winds touched down in the tourist area of Branson, MO, in late February. Among the many damaged businesses was the Branson Auto Museum, which lost its roof, according to Old Cars Weekly. The majority of the 100-plus cars in the museum survived the disaster, though at least seven were damaged by debris.

Branson Auto Museum manager Sue Uygun tells OCW that the museum plans to rebuild and reopen in the same location as soon as possible, but will be closed for at least a couple of months. The museum was launched on May 15, 2009 in a former crafts mall and had recently begun expanding its collection to include more antique tractors and farm implements.

Click past the jump for a press release on the tornado rebuilding efforts from the Branson/Lakes Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.
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Storm Recovery Continues - Branson Ready for Spring Break Visitors

Branson, MO (March 9, 2012) -- Ten days after an EF-2 tornado touched down in Branson, MO in the early morning hours of February 29, 2012, recovery and rebuilding progresses quickly. There were no fatalities in the Branson/Lakes area, although several minor injuries and significant property damage occurred.

"We are blessed that no one died due to this tornado, and our thoughts and prayers go out to those families who did lose loved ones as a result of all these recent storms that have struck much of the Midwestern and Southern parts of the US. It is clear that we will each need to share our stories of this event for many days and weeks to come. Where we were, what we felt, how we coped. I hope we take the time to truly understand the power of this storm and be forever grateful that our families and friends are here to hold and cherish." said Branson Mayor Raeanne Presley.

In anticipation of the busy spring break season, recovery and rebuilding efforts continue rapidly, with many of the affected businesses reopening or scheduled to reopen in the coming days. "I drove down The Strip, and I'm so impressed with the determination to recover and get back to business for our citizens and guests," says Dean Kruithof, Branson's City Administrator.
Business Re-openings/Status

On March 7, the NAIA Men's Basketball Championship Tournament kicked off at the College of the Ozarks, attracting basketball fans and tourists from across the country. The week-long national basketball tournament marks the start of Branson's peak tourist season. Thirty-two teams participate in the tournament and brought with them thousands of fans.

Branson Scenic Railway opened March 8 after being delayed three days because of damage from the tornado. After outside inspectors inspected the train, it was found to be in good condition to operate safely. Visit www.bransontrain.com for more information.

Major attractions such as Silver Dollar City, TITANIC Museum Attraction, Mickey Gilley Theatre (Home of "SIX" this year), Hughes Brothers Theatre, RFD-TV The Theatre, IMAX Entertainment Complex, Tanger Outlet Mall, Sight & Sound Theatres, Showboat Branson Belle and numerous other theatres, lodging properties, attractions, restaurants and retail stores are undamaged, open as previously scheduled and are welcoming visitors to the Live Music Show Capital of the World.

Plans for Branson's April 1 Centennial Celebration and Museum opening at are right on schedule according to celebration producer Bogie Bohinc.

The Veteran's Memorial Museum has reopened after the storm and sustained no major damage. According to June Tillis, the museum director, "We're A-OK. The plane and sculpture in front of the museum were damaged, but the museum itself is fine. Power was restored to the museum a few days ago and we are welcoming our veterans and other visitors as we have been for more than a decade."

Dick's 5 & 10 Co-Owner Steve Hartley said merchants in Historic Downtown Branson are taking care of customers in their "usual friendly way," and have been since just hours after the twister. "We were down a very short period; now we are ready to go. Branson's spirit has shown what we are made of," Hartley said.

Branson Landing was closed for two days following the tornado, and is now open. The famous Branson Landing fountains have resumed their scheduled performances. There are still a small number of stores that are still closed for repairs, and consumers can visit www.BransonLanding.com to find out more information.

Only two of the more than 50 theatres in Branson have had to delay their show schedules more than a week or more as a result of the storms. A list of scheduled show opening dates is posted on www.ExploreBranson.com. The majority of shows will open on schedule or have already opened for the 2012 season.

Celebrated tribute artist production 'Legends in Concert' announced that repairs have commenced on its home in the Dick Clark's American Bandstand Theater. Restoration plans have been completed, delivery of replacement building materials has begun and dozens of construction workers are in full swing making all the needed renovations, after receiving confirmation that the theater suffered no structural damage. Legends in Concert will soon announce the resumption date for its 2012 performance schedule. For more information please call 417-339-3003 or visit legendsinconcert.com.

Initial estimates are that the convention center will be up and running in 30 to 60 days. Meetings and conventions that were scheduled for the Branson Convention Center in upcoming weeks are being contacted regarding relocation in the area, many to Chateau on the Lake, which sustained no damage as a result of the storm or The Hilton Promenade, which sustained some damage but is still open to guests.

22 of the more than 200 hotels in Branson have sustained damage as a result of the storms, with varying degrees of severity. Estimated opening dates for those affected hotels will be posted on www.ExploreBranson.com. Branson has more than 18,000 lodging units, and can host up to 60,000 visitors a day. The storm damage has not substantially affected Branson's lodging capacity, and the vast majority of lodging properties are open for business as usual.

Branson Area Golf (BAG) courses were spared from any damage during the recent tornado that came through Branson. The courses include three of the top five "Best Courses You Can Play" in Missouri, as rated by Golfweek magazine.
Assessment Information/Business Resources

Most of the storm damage to commercial areas is in localized sections of W 76 Country Boulevard and the Branson Convention Center area. 33 moderate or slight injuries have been reported as a result of the storm in Branson. Most of the injuries were cuts and bruises although one more serious injury was reported.

All of W 76 Country Boulevard (also known as the world famous "Branson Strip") reopened to traffic on March 1, and visitors are traveling to and from attractions, shows and restaurants with only infrequent restricted access to certain sections to accommodate utility crews.

Post storm information and resources for business owners can be found at www.bransonchamber.com/storminfoforbusinessowners.php.

Disaster Dislocated Worker Informational Meetings will be held to assist with job loss and unemployment insurance for employees who lost their jobs due to the February 29, 2012 tornado. The sessions will include information about re-employment services, unemployment insurance, community resource contacts and other free services through the Missouri Career Center.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012 at Branson Parks and Recreation "RexPlex," 1500 Branson Hills Parkway from 11:00 a.m. to 12:30p.m.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012 at Kimberling Area Library, 45 Kimberling Boulevard from 2:00 p.m. to 3:30p.m.

For more information, contact MO Career Center at 888/728-JOBS (5627)

The City of Branson has secured the resources of the Structural Assessment and Visual Evaluation (SAVE) Coalition to inspect the damaged commercial properties in the community. That report will be made available by the City of Branson.

The Emergency Operation Center has been taken down and ongoing coordination of recovery efforts will be moved to Fire Station #1.

Power has been restored to the majority of the affected area, with only a handful of utility customers still without electricity, about a dozen located on The Strip.

FEMA has completed their assessment of the damage done by the storm. 71 residential properties sustained damage ranging from slightly affected to total damage. 147 commercial properties sustained damage ranging from minor to major. For the complete report please contact FEMA at 800/621-FEMA.

The 20th Annual MEC Job Fair is March 10, 2012 from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Branson RecPlex at 1500 Branson Hills Parkway. Attendance is Free. The 20th Annual MEC JOB FAIR at the Branson RecPlex is one of the best opportunities of the year for future employees and employers to meet before the beginning of the season. Future employees are able to apply and submit resumes that day to potential employers. For more information, please contact the Missouri Career Center at 417-334-4156.
Donations and Volunteering

The Community Foundation of Taney County, an affiliate of the Community Foundation of the Ozarks, has established the Branson Tornado Relief and Recovery Fund to accept donations to support clean-up and rebuilding efforts following the Leap Day storm. Donations can be made online at: www.cfozarks.org/donate.

The American Red Cross: Southern Missouri Region's Multi-Agency Relief Center will close at 5 p.m. Saturday, March 10. The MARC, located in the Red Roof Mall, was organized by the American Red Cross but includes representatives from various social and government agencies to provide a one-stop location for victims of the Feb. 29 tornado.

The Red Cross will continue to provide for the emergency needs of individuals affected by the tornadoes in Branson and other areas across the Southern Missouri Region. After the MARC closes, assistance will be provided through outreach and individual calls for help. For additional information please contact Nigel Holderby at holderbyn@redcross-ozarks.org.

Taney County tornado volunteer efforts to assist area residents with homes damaged by the storm are being managed by AmeriCorps St. Louis. Representatives are currently working out of the Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce and Convention & Visitors Bureau located at 269 MO Hwy 248. For assistance or to volunteer, individuals should call 417-243-2161, email ACSTLBranson@gmail.com or visit www.VolunteerBranson.org.

AmeriCorps is currently in need of work boots, bath towels, toothbrushes, shaving cream, conditioner, feminine products, diapers- sizes, n,1 and 4, baby wipes, toilet paper, garbage bags, paper towels, bleach, laundry detergent, reusable grocery bags, backpacks, blankets, flashlights, batteries, school supplies.

Mayor Raeanne Presley might have said it best when she said, "It is humbling to face the power of a destructive force such as this tornado. Yet this is exactly the time our community has gathered their strength to rise above daily chores - to volunteer, donate, work long hours in cold and heat. While I am so sad for the loss of property, I am heartened to know our Branson will rise up stronger than ever."

For up to date information, situation updates, road closures, show schedule changes, affected attractions, restaurants, shops, etc. consumers should visit www.ExploreBranson.com or call 800-296-0463.
About Branson

Branson, Missouri, nestled in the lakeside beauty of the Ozark Mountains, is America's affordable, wholesome family entertainment capital that emphasizes fun, comfort and the feeling of being right at home. Featuring an array of live theaters and attraction venues and active recreational pursuits, the community embodies essential American values such as patriotism, faith, courage and generosity of spirit in a warm inviting atmosphere that is truly genuine and heartfelt.