The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

May 25, 2011

VIDEO: Duquesne hit hard by Sunday’s tornado

By Andra Bryan Stefanoni

DUQUESNE, Mo. — The monster tornado that devastated Joplin blew just as hard through the village of Duquesne to the east, leaving a path of destruction just as severe.

Sunday’s tornado killed at least eight people, leveled between 205 and 265 homes, and destroyed several businesses in Duquesne, according to village leaders. Police Chief Tommy Kitch said the tornado destroyed 60 to 70 percent of the village.

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The Herron family, on 20th Street, represents some of the many villagers hit hard by the storm.

Frank Herron Sr. lived in a stone home and owned what local residents described as a “landmark” sway-backed barn. He lost the barn, his home and a herd of 25 to 30 cattle. Kitch said the cows are being “stacked up” in a shallow grave, given restrictions on burying them.

Herron’s son, Frank Herron Jr., and his grandson both owned homes across 20th Street. The storm leveled both houses.

After Sunday’s tornado passed, a dozen people were trapped inside the leveled Fastrip convenience store at 20th Street and Duquesne Road. On Wednesday, backhoes were tackling piles of wreckage that were once the store.

Nearby, horses and goats wandered through a roundabout built to handle traffic to the recently built East Middle School. Kitch said those animals, and numerous others corralled in the storm’s aftermath, are being kept by Ed and Marcia Autry on 12th Street.

The police chief on Wednesday cruised Duquesne’s storm-ravaged neighborhoods, where streets were indistinguishable, their names marked with orange spray paint. During a driving tour of the worst hit areas, he paused on each block to ask officers, volunteers and work crews if they needed help or supplies.

He reminded people of a 9 p.m. curfew. The village, he said, already has had its share of looting.

Officers responded to reports of more casualties throughout the day. In one case, the victim turned out to be an opossum — an otherwise mundane report that gave officers reason to smile.

In the coming days, Kitch said, congestion will be among his biggest concerns.

On Duquesne Road, Empire District Electric Co. is sending trucks and crews to assess damage and restore power, he said. Meanwhile, traffic is building on the thoroughfare — normally a popular alternative to Range Line Road in Joplin.

“Sightseers are a problem,” he said. “And while people are using this as an alternate route to Range Line, it also runs through the same damage path. We will need patience from people.”

At the village’s combined police station and City Hall, Mayor Denny White’s wife, Cathy, worked the phones Wednesday. The building has served as command central since Sunday.

“We’re providing noontime meals, clothing and a food pantry for our citizens,” she said, “and several have been coming in and out for that.”

She said the community has received an “outpouring of support” from other police departments, volunteers and civic organizations.

Kitch noted the sacrifice of one of his officers who “lost everything and still came to work.”

“This storm brought out the best in people,” he said. “We’re resilient.”