The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Tornado: Columns

August 14, 2011

Andra Bryan Stefanoni: Safe room will always be reminder of May 22

PITTSBURG, Kan. — The afternoon of May 22, I emailed a story to my editor from my home office just before the tornado sirens sounded in Pittsburg.

As we always do, my husband and I scooped up our two young boys and my laptop, jumped in the truck, and drove down our lane to our neighbors who have a basement.

They know to open the garage door so we can head downstairs until the all-clear sign comes. It’s not always convenient — sometimes it’s 10 p.m. and the boys are asleep.

That day, the tornado avoided the Pittsburg area entirely.

Little did I know it was instead leveling much of Joplin, including many of my colleagues’ homes.

The first week of covering the tornado’s aftermath, standing in my rubber boots amid piles of rubble searching for survivors to interview, left me shell-shocked.

My husband immediately decided to order a residential safe room. “No more trips down the lane with our boys,” he said.

It took two months for it to be manufactured, owing to the uptick in orders that the Neosho-based company received in the days after May 22.

Finally, on Thursday morning, two men arrived with our big, red, steel lifesaver, some 2,500 pounds, which they unloaded from the trailer and bolted to our garage floor.

Already on a tight budget, I worried that we were biting off more than we could chew financially.

I also felt a little guilty. My home was far from being touched by the storm’s wrath, and several of those colleagues who lost homes still don’t have new ones.

Research told us this safe room would withstand an EF-5, and many of the photographs of the Joplin destruction showed such safe rooms still standing. Who knew where the next tornado might form?

We did the right thing.

We got busy stocking our new safe room based on Federal Emergency Management Agency recommendations: bottled water, nonperishable food items, a first-aid kit, a flashlight, a battery-operated emergency radio, extra batteries, a wrench (to turn off household gas and water), an extra change of clothes for each of us, and a pair of gloves in the event we needed to dig our way out.

We also decided to store an external hard drive with our family’s digital photographs in it. We were ready.

We tried our cellphones inside it; they did not work.

I made a note to call Pittsburg fire Chief Scott Crain and Emergency Manager Eldon Bedene to see if there is a database inventory to which we can add our safe room. Jasper County, Mo., is one jurisdiction that has such a registry in order to save time for first responders, but we aren’t sure about Crawford County.

When it was all said and done, I surprised myself by crying a little, like I have so many days in the past two months. I realized that each time I open the garage door, I will see a big, red, steel reminder of May 22 and all I’ve witnessed since.

But I am relieved, as now we’ll be able to protect our boys, and ourselves, much better than we have before.

Text Only
Tornado: Columns
  • Premier Turbines plant in Neosho to close, 80 jobs lost

    Premier Turbines will close its Neosho plant some time in early 2015.
    Chris Pratt, director of communications for Dallas Airmotive, which has owned the plant since 2003, said 80 jobs will be cut.

    June 26, 2014

  • Susan Redden: McCaskill praises Joplin cooperation

    At least two things she saw in Joplin need to be replicated in Washington, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill said during a visit last week.
    A strong spirit of cooperation is driving Joplin’s rebuilding, she said. And,  the senator said there is a realization “that federal programs have a place.”

    August 28, 2011

  • Mark Rohr, guest columnist: Miracle of the human spirit ever-pervasive since tornado

    Monday marks 100 days since the worst tornado in our country in the past 70 years tore through our community, leaving lost lives and destroyed property in its wake. As I have said before, that fateful day in late May will be the defining moment in all of our lives whether we want it to be or not.

    August 28, 2011

  • Ron Richard, guest columnist: Partnership can spur recovery

    The tornado that ravaged Joplin and the flooding affecting Missouri River towns and businesses are both human and economic tragedies.

    August 28, 2011

  • Wally Kennedy: Flocks expected for Chick-fil-A opening

    The stocking of the Chick-fil-A restaurant at 2127 S. Range Line Road is under way in preparation for a grand reopening on Thursday. The restaurant was among 25 or so eateries on Main Street and Range Line Road that were destroyed by the May 22 tornado.

    August 27, 2011

  • Susan Redden: State officials argue about disaster money

    Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon is under fire from two different fronts, both relating to plans for a special legislative session in which the Joplin tornado and its economic impact will most certainly be a topic.

    August 21, 2011

  • Wally Kennedy: Walgreen’s to reopen both stores Monday

    Monday will be a big day for two of the three stores that Walgreen’s operates in Joplin. The Walgreen’s at 20th and Main streets sustained significant damage on May 22. It was at the north edge of the tornado’s damage zone. It has had a major makeover.

    August 20, 2011

  • Aspen Bowman Roger Nomer: Image a ‘revelation’ for photographer

    The sky looked dark, but nothing more unusual than a typical springtime storm.
    I was on duty May 22 at the Globe, and had just finished taking photos of Joplin High School’s graduation when the storm sirens started to sound at Missouri Southern State University.


    August 19, 2011 1 Photo

  • Jo Ellis: Small deeds will make a big impact

    A big, big thanks to all who have called, emailed or written to me saying they want to participate in Nature-Joplin (Nurture a Tree-Urban Reforestation Effort-Joplin) to help Joplin recover from the May 22 tornado that scoured the landscape.

    August 14, 2011

  • Andra Bryan Stefanoni: Safe room will always be reminder of May 22

    The afternoon of May 22, I emailed a story to my editor from my home office just before the tornado sirens sounded in Pittsburg.

    August 14, 2011


Given that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that electronic devices and communications are protected from searches and seizure without a warrant, do you think Missouri needs Amendment 9 added to its constitution?

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