The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

February 29, 2012

Tornadoes, high winds cause widespread damage

One person killed near Cassville

Tornadoes and high winds Tuesday night and Wednesday morning killed one person near Cassville and caused damage across Southeast Kansas and Southwest Missouri.

About three dozen people were injured in Branson when an EF-2 tornado crossed Table Rock Lake and went through the theater district. A number of buildings were damaged in Pittsburg, Kan., and Lamar by a separate storm.

Barry County Sheriff Mike Epperly said a possible tornado touched down around 12:30 a.m. Wednesday along Farm Road 1102, just north of Cassville off Business Highway 37. Epperly said several mobile homes were damaged or destroyed, and other nearby homes also sustained damage.

Authorities said Glen Keeler, 70, was killed after being thrown from his mobile home. Four other people in that area were injured as a result of the storm, although the extent of their injuries was not available Wednesday. A tractor-trailer was overturned on Highway 37 near the trailer park.

Meteorologists with the National Weather Service station in Springfield said they could not yet determine if the damage near Cassville stemmed from a tornado or high winds.

PITTSBURG

Weather officials said damage in Pittsburg was caused by straight-line winds of 110 mph that hit after 10 p.m. Tuesday. A motel at Centennial Drive and U.S. Highway 69 in south Pittsburg sustained heavy damage. Windows in many of the 66 rooms were blown out, the roof blew off, the wall of one room came tumbling down, and pieces of metal and other building materials remained wrapped around telephone poles Wednesday.

“I was returning from a room about 10:15 or so when the wind came up and began to roar, so I hid in a corner by the stairs, but the wall began falling. It was scary,” said Dharam Chaudhari, who with his wife, Milan, manages the Economy Inn and Suites.

Milan Chaudhari said they evacuated the 25 or so guests to the Regency Inn & Suites in north Pittsburg, and no one was injured.

Pieces of fiberglass insulation blew across surrounding parking lots and into Highland Park Cemetery, where numerous mature trees and headstones were toppled or damaged.

Across Centennial Drive to the south, the 20-foot-tall Meadowbrook Mall sign, supported by stone columns, was blown down. To the east, the storm tracked across South Joplin Street and damaged the roof of a new apartment complex, Seasons on Joplin. The wind uprooted numerous mature trees along Fieldcrest and Deill streets.

Mike Stevens, 432 Fieldcrest St., was housebound as a 75-year-old tree in his neighbor’s yard took out most of his front yard, his driveway and two trucks parked at the curb. He watched from the front porch as crews worked to cut up the tree and remove it.

A few blocks away, Assistant Superintendent Brian Biermann surveyed the damage at George Nettels Elementary School, where the storm had lifted the roof off the gymnasium and power was lost. By 5:45 a.m., administrators had decided to cancel school on Wednesday because George Nettels, Westside Elementary, Pittsburg Community Middle School and the school board office were without power.

Classes will resume today for Pittsburg students.

Throughout the south end of Pittsburg, electricians worked all day to clear power lines, fix traffic lights at major intersections and straighten fallen utility poles. Traffic signals remained out all day at Centennial Drive and South Broadway, one of the busiest intersections in Southeast Kansas, according to Kansas Department of Transportation traffic studies. A bumper-to-bumper stream of vehicles in the area included many sightseers who leaned out car windows to take photos.

At Pittsburg State University, classes were canceled Wednesday because of a lack of power, and administrators worked with engineers to assess the damage. No injuries were reported on campus, but several buildings sustained damage, including the Weede Physical Education Building, which lost part of its roof, the Student Recreation Center, Crimson Village Housing and the Kansas Technology Center.

“The damage to electrical lines on Rouse Street was fairly extensive, and power likely won’t be restored to the Kansas Technology Center or Student Recreation Center until Friday at the earliest,” said PSU President Steve Scott. “In addition, we have suffered damage to the roof of the Weede Physical Education Building. As a result, classes and activities scheduled for the Kansas Technology Center, the Student Recreation Center and John Lance Arena will not be held on Thursday.”

Other classes will resume today.

Elsewhere in Southeast Kansas, Larry Steeby, Labette County emergency management director, said three people were injured, one seriously, when high winds and hail struck. He said 10 to 12 homes, including some mobile homes, were damaged by the storm. He said the injured were in a house, with the person with serious injuries being hospitalized.

Steeby said the most serious damage was reported north of Altamont and south of Parsons.

Jason Allison, Cherokee County emergency management director, said storm damage was heaviest in the northwest part of the county, where four barns were destroyed and several trees and utility poles were toppled.

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