Severe storms pound Barry County

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Tornado touches down in Midway area; destroys 19 trailers at mobile home park

By Lisa Schlichtman

A train of violent storms rolled through Barry County like a locomotive Monday night, producing tornados, hail and drenching rain.

Midway, north of Purdy, was one of the hardest hit areas of Barry County. A tornado touched down there at around 5:30 p.m. and demolished a mobile home park located just south of the Midway convenience store at the intersection of Highway 37 and BB.

A section of Highway 37 south of Monett was closed to traffic for several hours on Monday night as emergency crews worked to clear debris off the roadway and remove downed power lines.

No one was injured but the mobile home park is completely leveled. Only two of the trailers were occupied and neither family was on site when the tornado touched down. The Mishlers, who serve as caretakers for the park, had just walked to the convenience store to purchase cigarettes minutes before their home was destroyed.

Jim Mishler said he and his wife and daughter waited out the storm in one of the store's storage coolers.

"When the tornado passed and we went back to see the damage, there was nothing to see, because there was nothing left," Mishler said.

Gail Purves owns the mobile home park and said he only had insurance on a one-bedroom home that was located at one end of the property. He said he had recently filed plans with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to build a sewer treatment plant for the park, which would have allowed him to insure the property.

Although only two of the mobile homes were rented at the time of storm, Purves said he had just gotten two others ready to rent.

"I'm not sure what I'm going to do now," said Purves. "I'll just have to assess the damage and see."

In addition to the mobile home park, a brick home owned by the Rodriguez family located just west of Midway along Highway BB was also damaged by the tornado. The home is still standing but a barn, outbuildings and fencing around the property were destroyed.

Unusual event

Storms were unrelenting throughout the night with tornado sirens sounding in area communities for a stretch of about four hours from 6 to 10 p.m. Another strong wave of storms hit the area again at around 3 to 4 a.m. Tuesday, bringing more heavy rain and huge bursts of lightning.

According to Barry County Emergency Management Director David Compton, Monday's severe weather came with little warning.

"This popped up on us," said Compton. "At 4:30 p.m. we were under a tornado watch, by 4:45 p.m. we were under a tornado warning and a a little after 5 p.m. we had a tornado on the ground."

Throughout Monday night and Tuesday morning, seven or eight cells passed through Barry County with each one producing a tornadic storm. There were a total of nine tornado warnings issued for Barry County in a seven-hour stretch.

"That has to be a record," said Compton.

In addition to the threat of tornadoes, Barry County also found itself under a flood warning.

Flash flooding was reported in areas of Cassville, and teachers at Exeter arrived at school on Tuesday morning to find water standing in a few classrooms due to the combination of heavy rains and ongoing construction on the campus.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Compton said 13 road districts in Barry County had reported damage that ranged from debris on the roadway to flooding to collapsed box culverts. At presstime, a number of roads were still closed due to high water.

High winds also damaged roofs and fence lines throughout the county, and hail damage was also reported.

Emergency crews from throughout the county were out in force Monday night and early Tuesday morning.

The Cassville Fire Protection District was pressed into service from 4:45 p.m. on Monday until 3:30 a.m. on Tuesday. The firefighters were initially called out as storm spotters but were later involved in flood-related operations in the downtown area.

The department assisted one family who became stranded in their car in the downtown Cassville area after crossing high water. In all, Cassville firefighters spent over 11 hours of continuous duty serving the Cassville area.

On Monday night, two storm shelters were opened in the county; one was located at the Family Life Center in Cassville and the second at the Nazarene Church in Monett. By 7 a.m. on Tuesday, both shelters were closed.

Injuries to people were minimal, according to Compton.

"We had four injuries reported and all were minor," said Compton. "Two of those denied care and two others were treated at local hospitals and released."

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