Severe storm tears through RRSP
A severe storm tore through Roaring River State Park at about 12:15 a.m. last Thursday morning. Strong winds brought down trees and large limbs, littering the campgrounds and causing minor damage to two cabins, a bathhouse and the fish cleaning station.
"The storm is unclassified and described as strong downburst winds most likely caused by a microburst," said Dusty Reid, park superintendent. "For this particular storm there was not a warning issued by the National Weather Service."
After the initial storm blew through the park, staff members made their way through the campgrounds notifying visitors that shelter was available at the Emory Melton Inn and Conference Center.
"This was not a mandatory evacuation; we just gave them the information they needed to make educated decisions to keep themselves and their family safe," said Reid. "Most of the campers went to the inn as a precautionary measure or because their camping gear had been ruined from the high wind event.
"It was not until the sun came up and the storms had passed that we officially evacuated the affected campsites," said Reid. "The evacuation was done so that clean-up procedure could be carried out in a safe and efficient manner."
After ensuring there were no injuries in the park, staff members worked to clear all of the roadways and assist park visitors interested in vacating their campsites and relocating to the inn. While campers waited at the inn, staff members began to clear debris from the most affected campsites.
"When the campers returned to their campsites, two to three hours later, the tree limbs and debris had been removed from on top of and around their vehicles and campsite," said Reid. "This allowed them to gather their belongings and pack up in a safe manner.
"During the period that visitors were in the inn, park staff gave them frequent updates and kept them well informed of everything going on in the park," added Reid.
At least nine different agencies responded to the park to assist the Roaring River staff during the hours following the storm.
"As always the community was a huge help, and that is why I love this area," said Reid. "I am extremely grateful to the Barry County Sheriff's Office, the Cassville Police Department, the Cassville Fire Protection District, the Eagle Rock-Golden-Mano Fire Protection District, Barry Electric Cooperative, Cox EMS, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the Missouri Department of Conservation and our concessionaire, Mo Parks Inc.
"All of these agencies played a role in making sure our guests were okay and did not need medical attention; they also helped inform them of the option to take shelter in the inn," said Reid. "Barry Electric was on the scene almost immediately and worked to restore electricity to the park and surrounding area. Several agencies assisted park staff to immediately get the park roads cleared so that visitors could get out of the campground and go up to the inn."
Employees from several state parks have also responded to help with the clean-up efforts over the last few days.
"We are seeing crews from all over the state come down and spend a few days at a time, providing both labor and added equipment such as dump trucks and other heavy equipment, which helps speed up the efforts," said Reid. "The clean-up efforts will be ongoing for several days."
Staff members have removed the majority of the debris from the campgrounds. Aerial crews will visit the park in the near future to identify potentially hazardous limbs still hanging in the trees.
On Friday, park staff members closed portions of campground #1 and #3 and all of campground #2. The remainder of the park was open to anglers throughout the weekend.
"We will not open any campgrounds until we have ensured the safety of all the campsites," said Reid. "With that said, we were able to complete the clean-up of campground #1, and we had it back open within one day of the storm. We hope to have all of the campgrounds open by next weekend."
Park visitors who were in the middle of extended vacations and not ready to return home were given a list of area campgrounds and state parks. Reid said some campers relocated to campgrounds near Table Rock Lake and others found campsites north of the park.
"We are very excited to get things cleaned up and back open just as soon as we can," said Reid. "There is already a significant amount of work completed, and within hours of the storm we had some of the most affected campsites back open.
"Obviously there will be some areas that we will not get to until next week; we have prioritized areas based on importance and public use patterns," said Reid. "We plan to clean all the areas open to the public first, and then we will focus on other areas such as maintenance facilities and private residences located in the park."
Reid reminds park visitors that a battery-operated weather radio should always be including in camping supplies.
"Missouri State Parks does everything we can to keep our visitors safe and aware of any hazardous weather that may be pending," said Reid. "I have always encouraged campers and outdoor enthusiasts to have a working NOAA Weather Radio with them at all times. The number one thing people can do to stay aware of any potential weather threat is to have one of these inexpensive devices in there RV or tent any time they are enjoying the outdoors."