Cleanup ongoing after severe storm cuts across Joplin, damaging buildings, toppling trees

May 7—An overnight storm damaged homes, businesses and toppled trees in Joplin, Duquesne, Carthage, Oronogo and other communities.

Damage to structures in Joplin formed a spotty line on a map from 41st Street and South Virginia Avenue to the northeast to East Newman Road and North Travis Acres Road.

No injuries were reported in the region as of noon Tuesday.

Joplin fire Chief Gerald Ezell said sirens did not sound in Joplin because the first warning Joplin officials got of a possible tornado was for Carterville at 11:30 p.m. Monday.

"Just a few minutes after that we started getting reports of trees down on houses, which started the response from our department," Ezell said. "We went to roughly 81 locations to assess damage last night."

As of noon on Tuesday, city officials and meteorologists with the National Weather Service station in Springfield were not sure what caused the damage.

Ben Price, a meteorologist with the weather service, said a two-person survey team is in Joplin looking at the damage to try to determine whether a tornado or straight-line winds were responsible.

He said, "We had reports of damage along a line from Joplin to Carthage and including parts of Webb City and Oronogo."

Ezell said crews with the local electric company, Liberty, and the gas company, Spire, were repairing downed power lines, broken utility poles and checking on natural gas leaks.

Steve McGarrah, director of planning and asset management with Liberty, said Tuesday morning that about 50 utility poles owned by Liberty had been broken or needed replaced.

"We started out with a peak of 17,000 customers without power, we're below 7,000 customers at this point who are without power," McGarrah said at a city news conference. "The city of Joplin had about 7,200 customers that were out of power at the peak of the storm and currently we've restored over half of those customers. We're still doing assessments as is everyone else. We haven't gotten to all areas."

Ezell described some of the damage he had seen as of Tuesday morning.

"Around the 13th and Range Line area we had a lumber company pretty well destroyed," Ezell said. "We had the rooftops of some of the duplexes in that area on the ground and several trees that had fallen on homes."

In Joplin, numerous trees, many of them large, were blown down on both sides of 28th Street and Connecticut Avenue, and damage also was visible around 32nd Street and Indiana Avenue.

Missouri Southern State University reported damage to its varsity athletic baseball and softball fields.

All across east and south Joplin as well as in Duquesne and in other communities, people were coming to grips with the cleanup and repairs they faced.

Austin Woodard, owner of Mason Woodard Mortuary at 3701 E. Seventh St., said three of four columns supporting the portico over the front entrance to the funeral home had been knocked out, causing the portico to sag and pull on the roof of the funeral home itself.

"It's pulling on the roof and I can see it's doing structural damage already," Woodard said. "A couple of the air conditioning units on my roof are damaged."

In Woodard's parking lot was a prefabricated shed that apparently blew across Seventh Street during the storm. Woodard said he suspects the shed hit the columns on the front of the building, knocking them out.

At 8 a.m., the shed remained where it ended up last night, blocking one of the entrances to Mason Woodard's parking lot.

Woodard said: "I'm a little overwhelmed right now as to what to do, but I guess we'll suck it up and get to work."

Jon Casada, 931 S. Duquesne Road, was out early in his yard with a chainsaw and four children preparing to remove two large trees that had broken and landed on his home.

"We had seven or eight trees total that broke or were uprooted," Casada said. "They put two small holes in the roof."

Casada said there were two adults and four children ages 6 to 14 in the home when the storm struck.

"I was in the attic, and there were a lot of vibrations and a huge thump," Casada said. "I could hear the power lines pop outside during the storm."