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Storm Devastates Area

No one can say there is never any news in Madison County.

As they were leaving the staging area after finding three-year-old Joshua Childers, many of the local law enforcement, fire department, and other emergency response volunteers said they were looking forward to getting some rest.

They had no idea that rest would be less than 48 hours. A severe storm swept through Madison and surrounding counties Friday morning, May 8, leaving a path of destruction few have seen around here.

According to the National Weather Service Office in St. Louis, this area experienced a weather phenomenom called a derecho. Mark Fuchs, Service Hyrdologist at the St. Louis office said Tuesday morning, that although the storm looked like a hurricane it was not.

“It was close to hurricane strength,’’ Fuchs said. “There was no warm air, and no tropical characteristics”associated with a hurricane.

He said the winds were close to hurricane strength.

The National Weather Service reported on its website that: A fast moving complex of severe thunderstorms brought damaging winds, large hail and tornadoes to southern Missouri and Illinois. 

The website said the following about Madison County, specifically:

“A swath of straight line winds, commonly known as downbursts, with estimated winds of 60 to 75 mph extended from the northwest corner of Madison County Missouri through Fredricktown along Highway 72 to the Bollinger County line.  Much of the damage that occurred was due to fallen trees, that were either uprooted or snapped at the base of the trunk.  Structural damage was observed in the town of Fredricktown where roofs and windows were damaged, and a few trees fell into houses.  Eye witnesses reported that the severe wind gusts lasted up to 45 minutes in duration.

“Within the larger swath of severe winds were pockets of more intense damage caused by microbursts with wind gusts greater than 80 mph.  Microbursts are small but very strong winds caused by downdrafts of individual thunderstorms.  The most intense wind damage occurred in the area from 3 miles north of the intersection of Highways F and V.  Many large trees were blown down in this area which were caused by estimated gusts as high as 90 mph.

“A small tornado track was found southeast of Fredricktown near the intersection of county roads 229 and 234.  The tornado then moved along County Road 234 for one half mile.  Damage was determined to be low end EF-1 intensity with winds estimated to be as high as 90 mph.”

Friday at 2:10 p.m., Madison County made a disaster declaration, which is part of the process to get a State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) Disaster Declaration. Immediately aftyer being briefed at the State Emergency Management Agency, Governor Jay Nixon signed an Emergency Executive order in response to the storm.

Nixon said: “My primary concern is the safety of Missourians and this executive order makes state agency resources available to help communities respond to the storms.”

Saturday, SEMA coordinated damage assessments with American Red Cross. Preliminary damage estimates, Saturday evening were as follows: Businesses and churches—eight destroyed, 31 with major damage, and 118 with minor damage; single family homes—66 destroyed, 400 with major damage, and 1,920 with minor damage; appartments—zero destroyed, two with major damage, and 146 with minor damage; and mobile homes—18 destroyed, 24 with major damage, and 12 with minor damage.

Gov. Jay Nixon Monday sent joint federal and state damage assessment teams to 28 counties in southern Missouri that were affected by the May 8 storm system that brought tornadoes, straight line winds and flash flooding. The teams will canvass areas with local officials, verifying damage to homes and businesses from the storm to support the Governor’s request for Federal Disaster Assistance.

 “It is imperative that our citizens receive help to recover from last week’s devastating storms,” Gov. Nixon said. “Many communities are still without power, and we are working diligently with local officials and the utility companies to expedite the recovery effort.”

The joint damage assessment teams are comprised of representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), the Small Business Administration (SBA) and local government. Gov. Nixon said the teams initially will look at losses in 28 counties. As local damage information becomes available, additional counties may be added to the joint damage assessment visits. (These are assessments to see if the counties qualify for declarations.)

The first counties to be visited are Barry, Barton, Bollinger, Camden, Cape Girardeau, Christian, Dade, Dallas, Dent, Greene, Howell, Iron, Jasper, Laclede, Lawrence, Madison, Newton, Oregon, Perry, Polk, Reynolds, Ripley, St Francois, Ste. Genevieve, Shannon, Stone, Texas and Webster.

Monday, the Madison County Emergency Management Team reported how things were going on the clean-up/recovery.

Madison County Sheriff  David Lewis is the Point of Information Officer. He said the first call on the storm was for an overturned tractor trailor in the MillCreek area just before noon, Friday, May 9.

Fredericktown Mayor Danny Kemp  said that some City power may be restored  Monday night. (Actually some power returned in the City at around 7 p.m., Monday.)

Kemp reminded people to “get your paperwork completed. Get estimates on everything, and document everything. “

Hunt added: “Take pictures of everything—all expenses, everything you had to throw away. Call your insurance. If your insurance denies your claim, request a denial letter.”

Kemp also asked that Fredericktown citizens “keep all limbs on the curb or in your yard and off the street and away from utilities.”

County and City residents can take debris to the City transfer station, which is open Noon-Dark, daily.

Fredericktown Police Captain Ken Tomlinson said the City-wide, dust-till-dawn curfew will be in effect until power is 100 percent restored.

Tomlinson warned people to beware of “questionable” contractors. Contact Fredericktown City Hall, 783-3683 to see if the contractors have a business license.

He strongly reminded people: “Do not give money orders or cash, get a receipt, and don’t pay for a job until it is completed.”

Fredericktown Fire Department Chief John Clark is Incident Commander  for the City of Fredericktown.

Clark warned people to “beware of gas lines, which can be ruptured if struck by a fallen tree. Call 911 immediately if you smell gas.”

Also, Clark reminded people there is no burning allowed in the City of Fredericktown until further notice.

“The City is aware there are still trees on electric lines,’’ Clark said. “The power will not be turned on in these instances until the problem has been rectified.”

In the meantime, people should beware of hanging branches, which are still dangerous.

Also water lines have been broken. People are urged to call 783-2323 in the City of Fredericktown if you observe a broken water line.

“Do not operate generators inside your home,” Clark reminded. “Also if you have a generator operating in your home disconnect the main power in the home to avoid a dangerous situation when the power is restored.”

He warned people to be careful with candles. Clark said their have laready been two structure fires in Madison County due to candles.

More than anything, Clark reminded people to “Be patient,” something repeated by everyone at the meeting.

Madison County Presiding Commissioner John Rauls also said people need to “be patient. Take your time. People are getting tired and need to take breaks. We are trying to clear all roads.

“The long-term clean-up is going to take two months,’’ Rauls said.

Law enforcement, EMS, volunteer firefighters have been out since Monday (May 4, with he search for Joshua Childers). The firefighters wives have been dispatching, Sargent Construction has provided a lot of help.

“We have an Emergency Management Director (Becky Hunt), who is probably the best in the state. She is doing a wonderful job, and the community should be proud of her.”

Clark also said he appreciated the work of Hunt and the many volunteers.

Becky Hunt, Emergency Management Director for Madison County, including Fredericktown and Marquand says: “The water in the City of is safe to drink.”

Rumors to the contrary are false. Tomlinson and Mayor Kemp both said they were interested in talking to the person or person’s who started he rumor. Hunt said it was important for people not to believe everything they hear. She said citizens should look to the local media for the facts, and if they have any questions, contact the helath department at 783-2747.

The Emergency Management Team would prefer that insurance adjusters set-up at Fredericktown High School.

Citizens in need are urged to come to the shelter set up at the First Baptist Church in Fredericktown on East College, Marquand Market or the Health Department to fill out a damage form.

There is food service available, as well as some supplies (like bags of ice; one per family) at the shelter at First Baptist, which is open 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. daily (food service breakfast 7-9 a.m.; lunch 11-1; and supper 5-7) until power is restored. Over 200 people ate breakfast at the shelter, Monday. Two truckloads of water was donated from Country Mart, and another semi load was arriving, Monday. The Farmington Civic Center has opened its showers to the public 5:30 a.m. until 9 p.m., Monday-Friday. People are asked to bring their own towel and personal items. Hunt also said the recovery effort has benefitted from the assistance of a long list of other businesses, agencies and services.

The Recovery center is open 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. at the Health Department.

People interested in volunteering with clean-up should call Celeste Vanderbrugen at the Extension Office 783-3303. If they want to help at the Shelter they should also contact the Extension Office and they will be put in contact with the right people.

 Jim McCarty, Director, Communications and Printing Association of Mo. Electric Cooperatives reported Tuesday, May 12, that “More than 70,000 members of 18 Missouri electric cooperatives lost power as a massive windstorm passed through southern Missouri May 8.”

“Flash floods and muddy ground have hampered recovery efforts in many areas.

Fredericktown-based Black River Electric Cooperative was hardest hit, with 14,500 members without power in nine southeast Missouri counties.

As of Tuesday morning, Black River was working to restore power to 7,900 members still without service. More than 1,000 poles were broken along Black River’s lines as the result of Friday’s storm.

“We’ve got sections where we have 40 and 50 poles broken in a row,” says John Singleton, manager of marketing for the 24,000-member cooperative. “We’re seeing hundreds of trees completely uprooted. It’s pretty ugly.”

With assistance from an emergency assistance program coordinated by the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives, Black River Electric has mustered a workforce of approximately 560 in the recovery effort. That number includes 325 right-of-way contractors and 150 additional linemen.

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