JOPLIN, Mo. (KSNF) – As the sirens rang out that fateful night, KODE’s Bubba Evansco was on air at a local radio station.
The events that followed that night have stayed with him throughout the last ten years.
It’s the voice so many of us in the Four State area know all too well.
His bubbly, infectious personality streams across our radio airwaves.
You can’t help but smile, but, a decade ago, the storm that changed so many lives, changed his, too.
“It’s been ten years, and I can hear every sound. I can smell every smell. I remember everything about it, like it happened yesterday,” says Bubba Evansco, Radio Personality.
He was on air the moment storms started brewing to the west of Joplin.
“I did notice there was some activity in Kansas, so I said it may be heading this way. Just keep your ear on the radio, we’ll keep you up to date as we go,” says Evansco.
When a call into the radio station from the Jasper County and Joplin Emergency Manager dropped, uneasiness set in.
“We didn’t know exactly what was going on. We were trying to follow the local TV, taking phone call reports as much as possible, looking out the window like I think, unfortunately, a lot of people were doing to see what was happening,” says Evansco.
He was supposed to be off work just 20 minutes after the tornado hit the city of Joplin.
Instead, he, of course, stayed hours later
“At that point we shifted from telling people that there was a warning to, let’s break it down. We’re going to go on all stations at once. We’re going to simulcast everywhere. And then it just went to taking damage reports as quick as we could from everyone,” says Evansco.
A co-worker who headed home to check on his belongings phoned in, too.
“He called on his way home to let us know his apartment building was gone. That’s when we realized that it was going to be something that we’d never seen before,” Evansco recalls.
He continued working nearly non-stop, worried for his own family’s safety.
“I was worried about them, I’m worried about my community, but I have a responsibility to continue to tell people what’s going on. So, you can’t leave. You can’t walk away,” he says.
Even 10 years later, the images he saw as he made his way back to the comfort of his home in Webb City haunt him.
“It’s human nature to wonder if I would have sounded the alarm a little earlier, if there would have been any more lives saved,” he says.
Now, he relates the seriousness of severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings to his listeners more than ever before.
Evansco says, “As much as I feel guilty, as much as I wonder if I could have done more, I also thank God every day that he blessed me with the opportunity to serve my community when they needed me the most.”