Crews had already begun removing the debris from the Betty & Bobby Allison Ozarks Counseling Center. (Photo by Shannon Cay)

Angelica Downey was in the midst of a session with a client at the Betty and Bobby Allison Ozarks Counseling Center on May 10 when a storm outside suddenly picked up. Downey said her client’s back was to the window as rain fell sideways. Over the course of maybe five minutes, Downey said, the severity seemed to grow exponentially. 

“And all of a sudden you hear this smack,” she said. 

Outside the first-floor window, a large tree was suddenly on its side. Downey and the client moved away from the window facing South Avenue, and saw another tree blocking the normal view of the ballfield just south of the counseling center. On a day when power went out for hours downtown, she and her client both heard what sounded like one or more transformers exploding, Downey said. 

“Your priorities shift from, ‘What’s going on with you?’ to ‘Let’s get out of here,’” said Downey, a social work intern at the nonprofit counseling center. 

Severe weather knocked down several trees on the counseling center property, including a 75-footer that might have been as old as the 1875-built house at 614 South Ave., said Andrea Bishop, executive director of the Ozarks Counseling Center. 

Fundraiser for cleanup will help keep counselors focused on mission, director says

A storm caused severe damage to the large trees surrounding 614 South Ave. in Springfield. (Photo by Shannon Cay)

Downey said she, her client and others at the center that day were fortunate that none of the trees fell through the building. Even the sign outside the center narrowly avoided being struck. 

“That was not honestly on my therapist bingo card for things I would experience in my career, but here we are,” Downey said. 

Crews were still at work cleaning up the debris about a week later. The nonprofit center is asking for help to cover the unexpected costs of the clearing operation. The center this week launched a GoFundMe campaign with a goal of raising $7,000 to cover the costs of cutting the fallen trees to a manageable size to be extracted from the historic neighborhood. Contributions are also being accepted directly on the Ozarks Counseling Center website.

Bishop said contributions to the cleanup fund will help the center continue its mission to provide counseling services to its clients, regardless of their ability to pay. 

“Every dime goes to paying therapists for therapy,” she said of the center, which has provided counseling services for the past seven decades in Springfield. 

Pulse thunderstorm strikes Springfield

Winds from a pulse thunderstorm fell a tree across South Jefferson Avenue near East Cherry Street in Springfield May 10. (Photo by Cory Matteson)

The center is located in a tight south-of-downtown radius that saw significant tree damage following what Springfield’s National Weather Service office categorized as a pulse thunderstorm on May 10. 

“It’s essentially a thunderstorm that grows up, or matures, pretty quickly,” said Cory Rothstein, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. “And then because there was weak flow in the atmosphere, it doesn’t really support it for very long. So they usually go up pretty quick, like a half-hour to 45 minutes, and then they collapse down. And when they collapse, the thunderstorm is weakening but it lets out winds when it’s collapsing, and that’s when you get your wind gusts.”

The highest wind gusts recorded at the Springfield-Branson National Airport by the NWS that day reached 54 miles per hour, with wind speeds reaching 39 miles per hour. The strongest wind speeds and wind gusts blew in from the east, which Bishop said was fortunate for the counseling center. The trees fell to the west, landing in, essentially, the only places where they wouldn’t have caused major damage to the building, Bishop said. 

It still led to a sizable bill to clear out the fallen trees outside the Ozarks Counseling Center, and Bishop said she is thankful for any help the community offers to help pay it.

Cory Matteson

Cory Matteson moved to Springfield in 2022 to join the team of Daily Citizen journalists and staff eager to launch a local news nonprofit. He returned to the Show-Me State nearly two decades after graduating from the University of Missouri-Columbia. Prior to arriving in Springfield, he worked as a reporter at the Lincoln Journal Star and Casper Star-Tribune. More by Cory Matteson