Dodging disaster

Thursday, January 10, 2008

There's not much left of the Midway mobile home park. A tornado touched down there on Monday evening and leveled the property, demolishing trailers and leaving behind piles of rubble and debris. While walking through the disaster site on Tuesday morning, I realized Barry County dodged another of Mother Nature's bullets. Luckily, only two trailers in the mobile home park were occupied and neither occupant was home when the tornado hit.

Storm sirens wailed throughout the night on Monday and flood waters rose, but in the end, no lives were lost here and property damage was minimal considering the strength and severity of the storms that rocked our county for close to 12 hours.

When it comes to tornadoes, it's hard to predict their path and it's always best to seek safe shelter rather than try to ride out the storm. In particular, those who live in mobile homes should be ready to find an alternate place to stay, because there can't be a worse place to be during a tornado. I never realized how quickly mobile homes are destroyed in the face of a tornado or even high winds until I toured the site at Midway on Tuesday. We'd also love to see individual mobile home park owners build shelters for their residents.

Regardless of where they live, every family should use this recent severe storm as a reason to establish an emergency plan. This involves finding a safe place to seek shelter from the storm in your community. On Monday night, Susan Lynxwiler, manager of the Cassville Wal-Mart, reported that area residents were seeking shelter at the local Supercenter building, which is not an appropriate place to go in an emergency.

One of the problems might be that there is no official storm shelter in the Barry County area. The Cassville R-IV School District had attempted to obtain a grant from FEMA to construct a storm shelter in the basement floor of the new intermediate school building. The grant request was not awarded and Cassville remains without a structure built specifically as a shelter.

Without a community storm shelter, Barry County Emergency Management Director David Compton suggests that area residents find a place close to home where they can go when a tornado siren sounds. This place should be somewhere they can get to quickly, that is on a lower floor and preferably in an interior room without windows. Bathrooms are usually a good choice and bathtubs (with mattresses and bedding placed over the top) provide a solid place to stay clear of flying debris.

Compton also suggests that families create a 72-hour emergency kit that includes water, food, first aid supplies, clothing and bedding, tools and emergency supplies and special items for medical conditions. These items should be kept in an easy-to-carry container. In the case of wide-spread disaster, Compton said it could take 48 to 72 hours for emergency assistance to arrive. "We need to remember we live in southwest Missouri and we get severe weather 12 months out of the year," Compton said. Complete emergency preparedness information and suggestions can be found at the American Red Cross website at

And with another emergency behind us, we'd like to again thank all those emergency workers, which include law enforcement officers, ambulance personnel, firefighters and volunteer storm spotters, for going without sleep to ensure citizen safety.