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Yogi Man survives Joplin Tornado

Family Heirloom Found

On May 22, 2011, just past 5 PM, an EF5 tornado touched down close to the Kansas and Missouri state line just west of Joplin, Missouri. Ripping through the southern part of town heading East across the city. Directly in the path was Jay L., ‘The Yoga Instructor’, known as the Yoga man and today known as ‘Springfield, Missouri’s Traveling Yogi’.

How he survived is amazing and even more surprising is just where he survived the Joplin Tornado. Many speculated the strength intensified as the tornado whirled through the city. Houses were flattened or totally swept off their foundations never to be found again. What made this extremely dangerous was the multi-vortex nature of the tornado. In this instance Multi Vortex is where more than one tornado is on the ground at the same time. In the Joplin Missouri area more than one funnel was spotted on the ground at the same time. A center funnel can be surrounded by up to 4 maybe 5 vortex at the same time it is spinning around like a wheel spinning around a hub. Cutting a path, some speculated, up to a mile wide through the city.

Brought in our shop nearly 2 years later was a 1973 Ventura Acoustic guitar. We are highlighting this guitar in several of our how to segments on Lots of repairs were performed. Almost a complete volume of procedures were performed on this guitar to bring it back to life. Jay L., the C.Y.T. (Certified Yoga Teacher), brought along the acoustic guitar to see if there was any way it could be repaired. A huge chunk of the side was gone. The top broke and had lifted off the sides. Some strategic braces were missing, finish was severely damaged and to boot the guitar was dry as a bone and in need of re-hydration. And all that was simply the short description. “This was a surprise gift from my wife,” Jay L. said. “She bought this guitar in 1973 from a music store in downtown Joplin.” As he sat there describing the gift he received years ago you could tell there were a whole lot of memories attached to this guitar.

Jay L. had just finished a yoga class around 3pm and was getting ready for his 5:30 session. A tornado watch for Carl Junction (N.W. of Joplin) was issued about 5:15. Jay L`s daughter lives in Carl Junction or as most call the city simply ‘Carl’. She was texting her Dad and Jay L responded, ‘he would hold class as scheduled.’ Students and friends were texting concern about the tornado. Jay L text back ‘having my scheduled class’. The tornado watch did not concern Jay L. until later. “And why should it concern me” Jay L. said. “The watch was for the Carl area and no tornado sirens were sounding off where I was”

Students from Neosho, W. Joplin and Carl Junction were texting concern and some decided not to attempt the drive. Jay L. finally relent. A lot had transpired in 15 minutes from the time of his daughters first text. Sirens go off at 5:41. Jay L. Clutching his cell phone, glancing at the time. The television was still broadcasting. And now Jay L., surprised as anyone else, began walking to the kitchen. Facing west he peered out a kitchen window just in time to see a big blue Dumpster passing diagonally across his back yard in Mid-Air. Jay L. said ‘it felt like such a surreal moment and hard to imagine what exactly was happening.’ But, he knew seeing a 6 yard Dumpster from the Taco place over 3 blocks away fly by that he`d better take cover.

Slumping down in the bathroom and knowing that part of the older foundation was solid just beneath him, he put his back against the door. “Surprisingly the cell towers were still active” Jay L. said as he hunkered down. He could hear the roaring tornado, “and it seemed to be all around me” as it went blaring by. Clutching a microphone stand with one hand and the cell phone with the other he text his daughter “ its here.”

It passed! There he was slowly standing up looking around. He was ready for a Yoga session only 20 minutes before. Flip flops on his feet and t-shirt with shorts. Fury surrounded and trapped him inside his own home. As he slowly stood looking around the room, no ceiling and no roof. He could see an area of this tiny room had a huge crack where a corner should have been. “There`s now a big opening in the corner” Jay L. Said. Now daylight broke through to the outside. Working his way through the open corner with flip flops on, being careful watching every step, he eased himself out. Jay L. Walked out to find nothing familiar but the partial walls standing that surrounded his hiding place. But, the rest of the house was either flattened as a pancake or completely disappeared. Jay L. said “had I crawled in my bathtub I would have died. The tub was full from the roof and other debris being thrown about, absolutely full.” Looking around the streets, wondering along with a very few other souls Jay L. said “I realized it was real but, it felt so surreal like this didn`t happen, this isn`t happening.”

The days following the EF5 Tornado Joplin survivors started to look in the rain soaked debris for anything that resembled there previous life of normalcy. Jay L. had a support team of family and friends. One day a guitar was found in the rubble. They knew it was Jay L`s guitar. Hard to believe Jay L. Survived and now was holding a guitar that his wife had bought for him in 1973.

Here`s to making many more of those sweet memories Jay L.

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