An unpleasant surprise
“I heard a very loud sound like thunder that had no intermission. It was just continuous,” said Romain Morgan about her encounter with one of the many tornadoes that swept across Missouri and other states on May 4, 2003.
That afternoon, Missouri had been put on tornado watch, so Romain, together with her daughter, two granddaughters, their guests and all their pets gathered at Romain’s Monolithic Dome home in Goodson, a small, rural community in Polk County.
“When that thunder sound started, I told them that there was a funnel near by,” Romain said. "But everyone just kept saying that it was only thunder — until my granddaughter, who was watching out my bedroom window, yelled, ’There’s a funnel in the yard. It’s here.’
“Apparently, it (the tornado) then slid up on top of my dome and hovered above it for what seemed a very long time,” Romain continued. “We had lost our electricity, so we all just sat around in my dark living room, speculating, and then it went away.”
But during that ordeal, Romain said that everyone, including the animals, remained calm. “We were not scared,” she said. “We were absolutely confident. We always knew the dome was tornado-proof and that’s why I built it.”
Romain was no stranger to tornadoes. She said, “I had been in a devastating tornado in 1957 in Kansas City, where our house exploded, and we were thrown around. I ended up under a refrigerator, holding one of my babies. So that’s why I decided on a Monolithic Dome and why my daughter and her family come here when there’s a tornado watch.”
Woods surround Romain’s Monolithic Dome, measuring 40′ × 18′, with 2 bedrooms, one bathroom and a loft, built in 1995. Romain said that her daughter lives in a log house about 100 feet away, with a little “island of trees” between their two homes.
“At some point afterwards,” Romain said, “we went outside to assess the damage. Miraculously, the log cabin was okay. But great, big trees — with trunks 16 or 18 inches across — were down. They were just snapped off at about a foot or two of height. Many huge trees on the little island between our homes were down.”
As for the dome itself, Romain said that on first inspection she saw no damage at all — not even to her two large front windows. But on another walk-around, she discovered that one piece of trim around the west window had been torn away.
“I think that tornado used the top of my dome as a launching pad,” Romain said. “It went off to the east and tore up great big trees on the east side of my house, and then it continued on for about a fourth of a mile and hit a beautiful new home in the process of being built but nearly completed. That house was blown into the forest.”
The tornado then traveled another six miles, killed two people and destroyed the mobile home park they were living in. Romain said, “It did tremendous damage about a half mile west of me also — tore down huge trees and a friend’s barn. It seemed like it danced around — unless there was more than one — because it seemed to be going in different directions.”
Ten days after that tornado, the Bolivar Herald-Free Press, a Polk County newspaper, quoted Kermit Hargis, Polk County emergency management director, as saying, “Every day we find new damage in this area… There is a lot of agribusiness loss out there… I don’t think anyone really understands how bad it was in Polk County.”
Note: May 16, 2003