Tornados bypass county

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Local damage caused by high winds and hail

By Lisa Schlichtman

Barry County dodged two bullets Sunday night as a pair of tornadoes skirted the county's south and north borders and travelled through the area quickly, leaving behind only minor wind and hail damage.

Tornado warnings sounded and many county residents took cover in storm shelters to ride out the severe weather, which threatened the area on Saturday and Sunday nights. Although funnel clouds were spotted near Monett and Seligman, no tornados actually touched down in the county.

According to Dave Compton, the county's emergency management director, strong winds downed tree limbs and blew sheet metal off roofs in the northern portion of the county. Another strong storm surge was experienced along the Missouri-Arkansas border in southern Barry County.

"We probably had the heaviest hail in the Eagle Rock area," said Compton. "There were reports of golf ball-size to baseball-size hail."

On Monday, Compton had five damage assessment teams working at various areas in the county.

"In canvassing the county, we found that damage was not very significant," Compton said. "Most of the damage was wind or hail related. We were very, very lucky."

The Barry County Emer-gency Management Office in Monett opened at 11 a.m. on Saturday and did not shut down operations until 2 a.m. on Sunday. Compton said new equipment enhanced his office's ability to track storms with greater precision.

"We were able to track the two most severe storms coming into Barry County all the way from their origins in Oklahoma," Compton said. "We are very happy with the technology we used, especially our enhanced Doppler Radar, which was provided to us by the National Weather Service.

"We also upgraded to higher speed connections on our computers and that was very effective," Compton added.

Compton said his new equipment allows he and his staff to zoom in and look at particular storm cells, which allows them to give their weather spotters more precise information on where to look for tornadic activity.

"I'd also like to give kudos to our amateur radio clubs," said Compton. "They did a great job and kept us well informed."

When the National Weather Service repeater went down in Springfield, Barry County and Lawrence County amateur radio operators handled information and passed it along to Springfield using relay stations.

"Our amateur radio link worked very well last night," Compton said.

Lawrence and Christian counties were not as lucky as Barry County over the weekend. More than 100 homes were damaged or destroyed in northern Christian County as Sunday's storm path followed a nearly identical path of a tornado that wrecked havoc in the area less than three years ago. The American Red Cross reported that there were 22 homes destroyed in Lawrence County and eight in Webster County.

Nine fatalities were reported in connection with the weekend storms in Missouri, which was the hardest hit of the Midwest states.

Tornado damage was also reported in Kansas, Oklahoma and Illinois.

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