Some scars apparently remain long after the wounds have begun to heal.
That was the impression Mayor Melodee Colbert-Kean had after viewing Joplin from the air Wednesday.
“You can still clearly see the tornado path,” she said. “It’s clearly etched by the lack of trees, the sparse housing. It still takes your breath away.”
The mayor joined nearly 30 other leaders from the city and Missouri Southern State University in taking aerial tours of Joplin by helicopter on Wednesday morning, courtesy of the Missouri Army National Guard aviation wing from Springfield and MSSU instructor Capt. Amanda Self.
The flights, each about 10 minutes long, flew the group along the six-mile path of the tornado in Joplin, beginning at the eastern edge of the city.
Despite the still-visible wounds to the city landscape, Colbert-Kean said she could easily envision what Joplin will look like in the next five to 10 years. A plan developed by the city’s contracted master developer calls for more than $800 million in projects, including a new theater/library complex, a performing and visual arts center, an event venue and sports complex, and a hotel and convention center.
“I see a lot of potential, and once the master developer really gets going, it will be almost like bringing the big city to Joplin,” Colbert-Kean said. “You see the possibilities of the growth in Joplin.”
Scott Clayton, executive director of Joplin Area Habitat for Humanity, said he appreciated the opportunity to see Joplin from the air. He said that from the helicopter, he saw several Habitat homes — 52 have been completed since the tornado, with six more scheduled for completion next week — as well as several other housing developments under construction.
“I was thinking about how far we’ve come,” he said of his train of thought during the flight. “There’s a lot left to do, but so much has been done.”
MSSU President Bruce Speck said he was surprised to see forested areas surrounding Joplin, despite the general lack of trees inside the tornado zone.
“I thought it was quite amazing,” he said. “It was very interesting to see the city from an aerial viewpoint. You get a different perspective.”
Leading the flights were four representatives of the Missouri Army National Guard aviation unit in Springfield, the same unit that provided air transport for Gov. Jay Nixon and others after the tornado.
Joplin has had a particularly significant relationship with the National Guard since the tornado. Guardsmen became involved in Joplin and Duquesne the night of May 22, 2011; at its peak, the guard had 377 of its members helping in the two towns.
They initially worked search and rescue missions, directed traffic, and set up a mobile medical unit. More recently, they supervised 1,400 people who were participating in cleanup crews under a $19 million federal grant.
Last month, the National Guard pulled the last the soldier it still had working in the area as a result of the tornado.
Colbert-Kean said she is thankful to the National Guard — and the thousands of volunteers who worked in Joplin after the tornado — for their efforts in helping local residents clean up and rebuild.
“We support any type of organization that has been here during the time of the tornado,” she said. “We’re appreciative. I don’t think we can say that enough. Without them, we wouldn’t be where we are today.”
Some scars apparently remain long after the wounds have begun to heal.
- May 2011 Joplin tornado
Farmers Insurance extends tornado recovery commitment
After investments that included stationing a company executive in Joplin for eight months last year, officials with Farmers Insurance said the company will continue its post-tornado commitment to Joplin in 2014. “We’re going to stay until the end,” said Doris Dunn, director of community relations for the company, on Wednesday. “That includes sending in another 100-plus volunteers and making some additional financial investments.”
- SLIDESHOW: One year later, One day of unity, updated Photos from a day of events commemorating the May 22, 2011 tornado anniversary
Author prepares for release of children’s book featuring heroic Joplin rescue dog
Carolyn Mueller is both a dog lover and a storyteller. So when she got the opportunity to write a story about a Joplin dog named Lily who helped search for survivors after the May 2011 tornado, she jumped on it. “Dogs like Lily can be heroes, too,” she said.
VIDEO: Lost photos claim day to be held at museum
National Disaster Photo Rescue and the Joplin Museum Complex have scheduled a public viewing and photo claim day for 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 22, at the museum complex in Schifferdecker Park. The project, originally known as Lost Photos of Joplin, was organized in the weeks after the May 22, 2011, Joplin tornado to reunite storm victims with photos displaced by the storm.
Building-permit total since tornado nears $1 billion
The building of new homes in Joplin continues at an average pace of 16 to 18 per month, according to a building permit report released for December by the city of Joplin. Eighteen building permits for new homes were issued in both November and December. In fiscal year 2013, permits for new homes averaged more than 16 per month.
FEMA official recognized by city
A retiring official of the Federal Emergency Management Agency who directed much of that agency’s response to Joplin’s 2011 tornado was recognized Friday by the city of Joplin. Richard Serino, the deputy administrator of FEMA, was presented a proclamation by Mayor Melodee Colbert-Kean during his last visit to Joplin before he retires on Jan. 23.
Two Joplin men sentenced to two years for tornado fraud
Two Joplin men convicted in separate incidents of disaster fraud related to the May 22, 2011, tornado on Monday were sentenced to two years in federal prison and ordered to pay restitution. Andy Eric Brownlee, 32, was ordered by U.S. District Judge Brian C. Wimes. to pay $2,750 in restitution, and Leslie Lynn Williams, 54, was ordered to pay $1,196 in restitution.
Tornado fund board hears grant requests
Trustees of the Joplin Tornado First Response Fund heard proposals Tuesday from 11 organizations for grant funding. The board is to decide how to spend about $225,000 remaining in the fund in what may be the final round of grants. The fund was established shortly after the 2011 tornado to receive donations from those who wanted to give direct aid to Joplin for recovery.
Joplin community publishes book of tornado experiences
Leaders in the Joplin community have published a collection of stories about the 2011 tornado and the recovery efforts that followed. First-hand accounts for the book, titled “Joplin Pays It Forward,” were written by city and school leaders; officials from health care centers and public utility companies; leaders in the business and media communities; representatives of churches and nonprofit organizations; and individuals with federal, state and local disaster relief groups and agencies.
New fire stations being readied for opening
After 2 1/2 years in temporary quarters as a result of the 2011 Joplin tornado, firefighter crews are moving into newly built replacement stations ahead of schedule. Firefighters last week began preparing a new Station No. 2 at 2825 W. Junge Blvd. for occupancy. It replaces a station at 2216 S. Maiden Lane that was destroyed in the tornado.
- More May 2011 Joplin tornado Headlines
- Farmers Insurance extends tornado recovery commitment