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
Local new-home construction catches up to previous pace
After a slow start early in this fiscal year for Joplin, the construction of new houses has resumed at the pace that existed in fiscal year 2013, when permits for new houses averaged more than 16 per month. Since November, the beginning of Joplin’s fiscal year, permits for 118 houses have been issued for a total cost of $12.8 million. The average value has been about $108,000.
- SLIDESHOW: One year later, One day of unity, updated Photos from a day of events commemorating the May 22, 2011 tornado anniversary
Farmers Insurance writes manual based on experience from Joplin disaster recovery
Joplin’s housing recovery from the 2011 tornado is one for the books. Jeff Dailey, CEO of Farmers Insurance, announced Tuesday that not only will Farmers Insurance stick with Rebuild Joplin to repair and replace the homes left on the local group’s waiting list, but the company also will kick off a similar recovery effort today for the city of Sea Bright, New Jersey, based on a book it has written to expedite disaster recovery that is based on its experience in Joplin.
New park feature opens on tornado anniversary to encourage healing
Cunningham Park has become an emotional place for Pamela Praytor. The name of her son, Christopher Lucas, is engraved on a monument that stands in the park in memory of the 161 people who were killed in the May 2011 tornado. “Even though I cry when I come, it’s OK,” she said. “It’s part of the healing.”
Home, business cited as examples of energy efficiency, strength
Ramona and Charles “Hugh’’ Shields were not the least bit reluctant on Monday to open their new house in the tornado zone to a bunch of strangers who had a lot of questions. “I used to live in a house where I had to wear two pairs of socks in the winter to keep my feet warm — not anymore,’’ said Ramona Shields. “This house is nice and warm in the winter, and nice and cool in the summer.’’
Mercy Health System to receive $23 million FEMA grant
The Federal Emergency Management Agency will provide Mercy Health System of Joplin with $23 million in public assistance funding by the end of the year. The disaster relief was announced Friday by U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill.
Joplin pays it forward with flowers; residents asked to return bulbs ‘fostered’ for other towns
Suzan Morang’s front yard bloomed brightly last year from a colorful array of bulbs that she will happily pass on to someone else this year. Morang, 1207 Xenia Court, is a participant in America Responds With Love, a national nonprofit organization that distributes bulbs to disaster-stricken cities.
Creator of Joplin-based ‘Dear World’ exhibit features Boston bombing victims in new work
The messages written on the skin of some Boston Marathon victims may be different, but Joplin residents will recognize the handwriting. Robert X. Fogarty, the creator of the “Dear World: From Joplin with Love” exhibit, took his signature style of photography and inspiration to Boston. Fogarty traveled to Joplin in 2011 and took pictures of community members with inspirational messages written on their bodies in black ink.
Opening of nursing home another recovery milestone
Gladys Dutton has done a lot of things in her life, but Monday’s dedication of the Communities at Wildwood Ranch nursing home marked a first. “I’ve never cut a ribbon before,” she said. “I hope I do a good job.” Dutton was one of four residents to participate in the opening of the $8.5 million nursing center that eventually will be home to 120 people.
Joplin Redevelopment Corp. preparing for first property sale
The first sale of property from the Joplin Redevelopment Corp. to Wallace Bajjali Development Partners is scheduled for May 16. The city staff will be working to prepare for that sale, it was discussed on Tuesday at a meeting of the JRC.
- More May 2011 Joplin tornado Headlines
- Local new-home construction catches up to previous pace