CARL JUNCTION, Mo. — Thousands of volunteers have made great strides in assisting the Carl Junction community with tornado recovery over the past six days, but the city is still waiting to hear back from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
An EF3 tornado tore through the Briarbrook neighborhood at 8:05 p.m. May 22, leaving a trail of downed trees, broken power lines and damage to more than 200 homes. No fatalities or serious injuries were reported. The tornado's path was 9 miles long and a quarter of a mile wide, according to the National Weather Service.
Last week, legislators toured the Briarbrook area to survey the damage, which U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., described as “significant.” Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo, is to visit Wednesday morning with emergency management and first responders in Carl Junction.
Steve Lawver, city administrator, said a steady stream of volunteers assisted with recovery efforts over the weekend.
“Even though it was a three-day holiday weekend, we received a lot of really good help,” Lawver said. “There was a lot done.”
Matthew 25: Ministries’ Disaster Response Team, based in Ohio, traveled hundreds of miles to drop off supplies for those affected by the storm. Items included toilet paper, personal care kits and cleaning products. Ben Williams, the ministry’s disaster relief coordinator, said they stopped in Carl Junction after making a statewide trip to Jefferson City and Eldon, which were also struck by tornadoes on the eight-year anniversary of the 2011 Joplin tornado.
“We are a disaster relief organization, so we’re constantly monitoring the weather and similar situations that could require extra assistance,” Williams said. “We saw the tornadoes move through the other night and knew that there would be needs we could help with. We hope to relieve those temporary stresses and give them hope."
Piles of uprooted trees, limbs and other debris dot the Briarbrook community as homeowners and volunteers continue to move materials to the curb for pickup. The city has contracted with a local construction company, Asbell, to aid property owners with tree and debris removal.
“Asbell is helping with vegetation and debris,” Lawver said. “As they work through that, this gives the residents more time to get some of that stuff from their backyard to their front yard. They’ll make another sweep through town.”
The trees are being transported to a city property off South Rouse Street where they're being fed through a wood chipper. Lawver said the next step is figuring out how to dispose of the construction debris, which can be dumped at Galena, Kansas, at either the Republic Services Transfer Station or the Jordan Disposal C&D Landfill. Residents are advised to separate the tree limbs and the debris into piles for pickup.
The city still had not heard a response from FEMA, as of Tuesday afternoon, to identify if any individuals are eligible for funding assistance. Lawver said city officials are not sure when they’ll receive word from the agency, since so many natural disasters have been plaguing the state and the country.
“I haven’t heard hide nor hair of them (FEMA),” Lawver said. “I’ve done a bunch of their paperwork and sent it in. They (FEMA) have all of the tornadoes in Jefferson City, Eldon and Golden City, and not to mention all of the flooding issues from earlier in the month that they’re trying to deal with. Although just a phone call from somebody would be nice.”
In order to receive FEMA funding in Jasper County, the city must have sustained at least $434,000 in damages, Lawver said. City officials said they’re confident that threshold will be met.
It’s been 16 years since Carl Junction has been struck by a tornado. On May 4, 2003, an EF3 hit the downtown area, destroying several city and school buildings, as well as damaging 500 homes. An elderly couple west of town were killed, and another 15 people were injured by the storm. The tornado track was about 5 miles long and 880 yards wide, according to the weather service.
Lawver said that when the 2003 tornado occurred, the town qualified for FEMA funding and the agency responded within three days. The school district itself faced more than $6 million in repairs, and 30 percent of the buildings in town were affected by the storm.
“The high dollar damage was to the school system and the school buildings,” Lawver said. “It took several homes from JJ to the cemetery, at an angle. The track was a little bit shorter and it was not as wide, but it was still an F3.”