JOPLIN, Mo. —
Two incredibly destructive and deadly tornadoes touched down in Joplin during the early 1970s.
Both occurred during the month of May and were separated by just a little over two years of time.
Near supper time on May 5, 1971, a paralyzing tornado hit Joplin, leaving one person dead while injuring at least 60 other people. The storm took the life of Rick Johnson, a 23-year-old Missouri Southern State College student.
The tornado first touched down just west of Maiden Lane. The Joplin Globe reported that the tornado “uprooted trees, smashed houses and cars, damaged numerous business buildings, mainly in the area from 12th Street and Wall Avenue.” The sheer velocity of the storm caused two large trailer trucks to be overturned on the Campbell 66 Express lot at 12th Street and Grand Avenue.
The twister dismantled nearly all signs along Main Street from Eighth to 15th streets. Most of the store windows along the route were blown out. The tornado stayed on the south side of Seventh Street as it moved eastward from Main, with a major thrust lashing into the Eastmoreland Plaza Shopping Center, where the Foodtown Super Market was heavily damaged. The Sears store and the other businesses along the plaza’s strip received damages too.
Moving on both sides of Seventh Street from the plaza, the tornado ripped apart buildings and houses, knocked down signs, trees and electric wires, and overturned several cars.
The indiscriminate storm caused damage to 1,500 to 1,600 insured private buildings, homes and businesses. In a matter of days, over 200 claims adjusters were on-site.
The front and rear portions of the R & S Chevrolet building in the 1600 block of East Seventh Street were broken apart by the twister. The front of the May’s City building, the Elms Center — where Katz Drug and the Bowlarama were located — all received direct hits. The strong twister also collapsed the rear portion of the Missouri Highway Department building at Fourth Street and Range Line.
Joplin City Mayor Larry Hickey estimated the damages at $20 million. Missouri Gov. Warren E. Hearnes declared the city of Joplin a disaster area.
Two years later
Just two years and six days after the 1971 tornado that was still fresh in everyone’s memory, another devastating tornadic storm struck. The cruel side of nature lashed back again on the morning of May 11, 1973.
This destructive tornado collided with the region shortly before 7 a.m. Winds reached speeds between 70 and 100 mph, took three lives and injured some 100 area citizens.
Killed during the storm were 19-year-old Pamela Long and 64-year-old William Carl Graves. The Joplin Globe reported: “Graves died of an apparent heart attack suffered shortly after the storm caused extensive damage in the mobile park where he resided. Both Graves and Long were residents of the West Side Trailer Court located on West 7th Street, approximately three miles west of Joplin.” Eleven of the 23 mobile homes in the park were destroyed.
Thirty-eight-year-old Eva Mae Sinko was pronounced dead on arrival at St. John’s Medical Center after being injured at the Miller Manufacturing Co., where she was employed.
In addition to the employee’s death, the company’s clothing factory at 27th Street and Davis Boulevard received substantial damage.
Hardest hit in the Four-State region was the city of Joplin. As many as 100 homes sustained damage from the high winds and downed trees. The storm displaced 60 families in the city.
Many of Joplin’s businesses received storm damages. Northpark Mall, St. Mary’s Catholic Church, the Consumer’s and Wal-Mart shopping centers, Fleming IGA Warehouse, Cummin’s Diesel, Ozark Bible College’s chapel and Parkwood High School’s Russ Kaminsky Gymnasium all had extensive damage.
Thousands of trees were uprooted and broken. Schifferdecker Golf Course lost over 60 trees and Twin Hills Golf and Country Club lost over 75. Some roads were temporarily closed. Local television stations were knocked out of service and 2,700 telephones stopped working.
A command center for the American Red Cross was set up at Memorial High School for the feeding, clothing and housing of people displaced by the storm. Division representative M.H. Fredrickson arrived from Springfield to set up disaster operations. Red Cross units from Springfield, Kansas City, Coffeyville, Muskogee and Tulsa were dispatched to Joplin to assist in the disaster relief.
By Monday, May 15, Missouri Gov. Christopher (Kit) Bond had declared Newton and Jasper counties as disaster areas. Joplin City Manager Robert Metzinger estimated damages at $12.8 million.
Separated by a little more than two years, the storms created two different types of tornadoes.
The 1971 tornado was one that ran in a fairly narrow width, packing a wallop in a swath that devastated a 37-block area. This type of tornado has winds up to 300 mph at its center, but just 600 yards away there was little or no damage.
The 1973 tornado caused extensive destruction in all sections of the city, rather than along any general path. Allen Pearson, director of the National Severe Storms Forecast Center, described the phenomenon as an intense low-pressure center with strong winds running miles wide, which contained small tornadoes.
Regardless of the type, both tornadoes in the 1970s left a permanent mark on Joplin and its residents.
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Two incredibly destructive and deadly tornadoes touched down in Joplin during the early 1970s.
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Billions of dollars are on the line when Missouri voters head to the polls on Tuesday to consider Amendment 7.
The constitutional amendment, sent to the voters by the Legislature this year, would temporarily increase Missouri’s sales tax by three-quarters of 1 percent, raising an estimated $5.4 billion for the next decade to fund transportation projects. That includes more than $114.1 million in state funds for projects in Newton and Jasper counties, on top of additional revenue for localities that would be raised.
After the Missouri Department of Transportation downsized in recent years, these projects are now mostly designed and built by private engineers, contractors and laborers — many of whom have contributed tens of thousands of dollars to a campaign effort to sway voters to support the measure.
Last Monday — eight days ahead of the primary election day — supporters of the measure reported having raised more than $4.1 million for a campaign committee called Missourians For Safe Transportation and New Jobs, which was established last fall to support the measure.
The International Union of Operating Engineers in St. Louis and Kansas City have contributed nearly $250,000 to the effort. That total was dwarfed by the $649,398 put in by the Industry Advancement Fund Heavy Constructors. Between its Missouri and Kansas companies, APAC — a construction contracting company that specializes in transportation projects — has contributed more than $150,000.
“The whole idea that money is flowing into the campaign, of course it is,” said Sen. John Lamping, a St. Louis Republican who is opposed to the measure. “It would be a smart business decision to do that.”
Lamping said the money pouring into the campaign supporting Amendment 7 is indicative of the financial gain the measure bodes for contractors and laborers.
Lamping proposed a measure in the Legislature that would redirect one-eighth of existing sales and use tax revenue directly to transportation projects, but he said that measure was rejected by legislative leaders. The coalition “didn’t hear about it,” the outgoing senator said, “because it was my idea instead of someone else’s idea.”
Lamping, who filibustered a similar measure in 2013, said Republicans have an ideological consistency problem on the issue. He pointed to the Legislature passing a sales tax increase only a few weeks after overriding Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of an income tax cut that will largely help businesses organized as limited liability corporations, like many of the companies that could benefit from the measure. Lamping said that the tax increase will mostly affect taxpayers who did not get a significant tax cut.
“Who wants a tax cut in Missouri?” he said. “Businesses. (Republican leaders) wanted to make them happy and then they passed a tax cut. This is grand-scale special interest cronyism.”
The ad campaign being funded mostly by the business interests features paramedics and construction workers claiming the measure would “fix our roads and keep Missouri families safe.”
“We have a chance to give our highways and bridges the repairs they need,” says one ad, which is running in Joplin and statewide in the lead up to Tuesday’s vote. “We have a chance to fix what’s broken by voting yes on Amendment 7.”
The commercial uses a lot of words to talk about the benefits of the measure, but two words in particular are noticeably absent from the commercial: “Tax increase.”
“The ads don’t mention any of the ballot language,” said Jewell Patek, a spokesman for Missourians For Safe Transportation and New Jobs. “We figure Missourians will see the language when they go to the polls.”
Patek, a former state representative who now lobbies the Legislature, said he disagreed with Lamping’s notion that Amendment 7 is all about special interest gain.
“There’s quite a bit to gain for Missourians,” he said. “We have serious road needs. We’ll win or lose by the benefits in Amendment 7. I’m not sure I agree with Senator Lamping’s assessment.”
If approved, Amendment 7 would prevent an increase in the state’s fuel tax, a funding boost opponents of the amendment like Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon and some of the state’s social welfare groups have said would be more appropriate because it could pull in revenue from people who use the roads — like the state’s trucking industry.
The Missouri Truckers Association’s political action committee has contributed more than $27,000 to the effort to pass the measure. Tom Crawford, president of the association, said his members support the amendment because they see the problems on the road and deal with them every day. And passage of the measure does not mean anyone will stop paying fuel tax.
“We overpay our fair share on the fuel tax,” he said, pointing to statistics by the American Transportation Research Institute that show truckers have accounted for about 14 percent of road usage while paying for 39 percent of all taxes and fees owed by motorists. “We pay sales taxes just like everybody does on goods and products that people buy in the stores.”
Crawford said truck companies do not pay state sales taxes on the purchase of trucks, but they do pay a federal tax. “So, we won’t be impacted on new equipment purchase, but other areas of our business will be impacted just like every other taxpayer in the state will,” he said.
Thomas Shrout, who is helping lead the campaign against the tax hike, said that is not good enough and that Amendment 7 lets truck drivers off the hook. “Under Amendment 7, they wouldn’t have to pay any more,” he said.
Shrout’s opposition campaign has raised just over $27,000 — less than 1 percent of the total money raised by its supporters. They are targeting their opposition at the state’s urban core by spending money on direct mail and targeted robocalls in the final week.
“We think using the sales tax to fund road projects is poor policy for the state of Missouri,” he said. “It should be rejected.”
Shrout said the Missouri Department of Transportation and its supporters should go back to the drawing board and consider some of the other options like campaigning for toll roads or a gas tax increase — both based on road usage.
Representatives for APAC and the Heavy Constructors Association declined requests for comment.
Amendment 7 is one of five measures voters will consider when they head to the polls on Tuesday. Statewide, local election officials reported to the Missouri secretary of state that it was their estimate that about 27 percent of the state’s 4.06 million registered voters will show up to vote, including 25 percent of registered voters in Jasper County and 30 percent in Newton County.
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