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Archive for February, 2012

Sherry Cousins and her brother Bruce Wallace of Hollister sit in the wreckage of their secondhand store in Branson on Wednesday. A powerful storm system that produced multiple reports of tornadoes lashed the Midwest early Wednesday, roughing up the country music resort city. (Mark Schiefelbein/AP)

(Branson) (AP) – A powerful storm system that produced multiple reports of tornadoes lashed the Midwest early Wednesday, roughing up the country music resort city of Branson and laying waste to small towns in Illinois and Kansas. At least nine people were killed.

An apparent twister rolled through Branson just before 1 a.m. and seemed to hopscotch up the city’s main roadway, ripping roofs off hotels and damaging some of the city’s famed music theaters dangerously close to the start of the heavy tourism season. More than 30 people were reported hurt, mostly with cuts and bruises.

“If it was a week later, it’d be a different story,” said Bill Tirone, assistant general manager for the 530-room Hiltons of Branson and the Branson Convention Center, where windows were shattered and some rooms had furniture sucked away by high winds. Hotel workers were able to get all guests to safety as the storm raged.

John Moore, owner of the damaged Cakes-n-Creams ’50s Diner, said the tornado seemed to target the city’s main strip, moving down the entertainment district, right through the convention center, across a lake and into a housing division. He said the tornado appeared to “jump side to side.”

“The theater next to me kind of exploded. It went everywhere. The hotels on the two sides of me lost their roofs. Power lines are down. Windows are blown out,” Moore said. “There’s major, major destruction. There has to be millions dollars of damage all down the strip.”

At least six people were killed in the southern Illinois town of Harrisburg after a storm leveled much of the community of 9,000 people.

In Missouri, one person was killed in a trailer park in the town of Buffalo. Two more fatalities were reported in the Cassville and Puxico areas.

At least three people were critically injured in the small eastern Kansas town of Harveyville, much of which lay in rubble.

The tornadoes were spawned by a powerful storm system that blew down from the Rockies on Tuesday and was headed across the Ohio and Tennessee river valleys toward the Mid-Atlantic region.

Corey Mead, lead forecaster at the U.S. Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., said a broad cold front was slamming into warm, humid air over much of the eastern half of the nation.

From Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, at least 16 tornado sightings were reported from Nebraska and Kansas across southern Missouri to Illinois and Kentucky, according to the storm center, an arm of the National Weather Service.

Jennifer Verhaalen, a long-term resident at the Hillbilly Inn Motel in downtown Branson, said she saw a white funnel cloud followed by a wall of rain as the storm closed in on the town around 1 a.m.

She said she retreated to a back bedroom with her husband as the storm slammed into two other hotel buildings tearing the roof off one.

Across the road, a strip mall lay in tatters, its roof missing and several walls collapsed. As the sun rose Wednesday, business owners picked through the remains of their stores.

Keith and Glenna Bartley, tourists from Kingsport, Tenn., said staff at the Grand Victorian Hotel where they were staying ushered them to the basement around 1:30 a.m.

Branson has long been a tourist destination for visitors attracted to the beauty of the surrounding Ozarks. But the city rose to prominence in the 1990s because of its theater district, which drew country music stars and other music celebrities including the Osmonds and Andy Williams. It is about 110 miles southeast of Joplin, which was devastated by a monstrous twister last May that killed 161 people.

Farther north, rescue crews waited for sunrise to begin searching a trailer park south of Buffalo where at least one person was killed after an apparent twister slammed the area.

Lt. Dana Eagan of the Dallas County Sheriff’s Office said 13 people at the park were hurt and the entire town was without power. Buffalo is about 35 miles north of Springfield.

Tornado season normally starts in March, but it isn’t unusual to see severe storms earlier in the year. Forecasters can seldom assess how serious a season will be because twisters are so unpredictable. This year, two people were killed by separate tornadoes in Alabama in January, and preliminary reports have showed 95 tornadoes struck that month.

In neighboring Kansas, the National Weather Service reported brief tornado touchdowns southwest of Hutchinson, and Gov. Sam Brownback declared a state of emergency after an apparent tornado struck Harveyville.

The system also skirted northern Arkansas, bringing gusts of up to 60 mph in the northwest. A wall cloud, which often produces twisters, was reported in Cherokee Village, where trees were scattered along roads, the weather service said. Residents of Clay County in northeastern Arkansas reported hail the size of golf balls, while half dollar-sized hail was reported in Mountain Home.

In northern Oklahoma, gusts of up to 80 mph flipped trailers and damaged homes near Cherokee.

Tornado warnings and watches were posted for a large portion of Kentucky.

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(Branson) (AP) – At least one person has been killed and numerous injuries and significant damage were reported early Wednesday as a line of possible tornadoes moved across the Midwest.

The death happened when a possible tornado hit a mobile home park in southwest Missouri, south of Buffalo, said Lt. Dana Eagan of the Dallas County Sheriff’s Office. Another 13 people at the trailer park were injured, she said. Eagan said crews would begin searching the area once the sun came up. The storm also knocked out power to all of Buffalo.

Other hard-hit were areas in southwest Missouri included Branson and Lebanon.

In Branson, there were at least a dozen injuries including people trapped in their homes, National Weather Service meteorologist Mike Griffin said. The apparent tornado moved through downtown Branson, heavily damaging the city’s famous theaters.

Searchers there were going house to house early Wednesday searching for people killed or injured. Taney County Sheriff Jimmie Russell said he didn’t know how many injuries there were or how severe they were.

After hitting the Midwest, the weather system was headed to Kentucky and Tennessee.

Elsewhere, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback declared a state of emergency late Tuesday after an apparent tornado struck Harveyville.

The declaration covered Wabaunsee County, southwest of Topeka. A news release from the governor’s office said one person was critically injured and “a number of homes” and a church were damaged, and trees and power lines were down.

Earlier, the National Weather Service reported brief tornado touchdowns southwest of Hutchinson, KS.

(Willow Springs) – Highway Patrol Troop G has announced a DWI Saturation will be held in Ozark and Texas County sometime in the month of March. The Missouri State Highway Patrol, in cooperation with area law enforcement, will conduct the checkpoint.

Sobriety checkpoints and DWI saturations are part of the Patrol’s efforts to remove careless and intoxicated drivers from Missouri’s highways, and are conducted at various locations, which have been found to experience a higher than normal number of alcohol-related contacts, hazardous driving contacts, and traffic crashes.

Troop G Captain Dwayne Isringhausen says sobriety checkpoints and DWI saturations enable the Patrol to enhance efforts in removing drugged and intoxicated drivers from area roadways.

(Rolla) – A Hannibal man has been sentenced to 57 years in prison in connection with the murder of a Trask man back in 2009.

30-year-old Dale Cross was found guilty of 2nd Degree Murder, 2nd Degree Arson and Armed Criminal Action August 2011. Cross is convicted of killing 37-year-old Andrew Day of Trask by shooting him inside his residential trailer and burning it down.

Cross’ sister, 33-year-old Annette Cross of Lawrence, KS, is scheduled to be tried in the same case March 26-30 in West Plains.

Cross’ mother, 56-year-old Joann Cross, pleaded guilty to supplying the gun to Dale Cross in April 2010.

(Howell County) – The April 3 general municipal election ballot for Howell County has been released. The voter registration deadline to vote is March 7 at PM. People who are registered but have moved their residence are encouraged to transfer their registration to avoid delays in voting on election day.

West Plains

In West Plains, voters will choose two in the vote for West Plains R-VII director. Names on the ballot include newcomer Brian Mitchell and incumbents Chuck Robson and board president Jimmy Thompson. The position is a three-year term. Also on the ballot for West Plains is Jack Pahlmann for a four-year term on the city council. He is unopposed.

The capital improvement tax of a half cent to improve facilities in the city will also be on the ballot for West Plains. The ballot says the tax is for “…the funding of, but not limited to, acquisition of playground equipment and other improvements and additions to city parks and playgrounds; improvements and additions to city sidewalks, trails and bike paths; construction and furnishing of a new fire station and the purchase of a new fire truck; construction of a Transit System Bus Barn; rehab or construction of a Butler Park Building; and providing some costs of operation and maintenance of capital improvements made with said tax”.

Mountain View

In Mountain View, voters will choose two board of education members for the Mountain View-Birch Tree R-III school board. Names on the ballot include Daniel Woolsey, Beverly Denton and Kevin Pruett. Voters will also choose their mayor for a two year term: incumbent Bud Vines or Patrick Reed. The East Ward Alderman race between JB Cantrell and Paul O’Brien will also be decided, as will the West Ward Alderman seat: Jim Jenkins is running against incumbent Jeremy Burks.

Willow Springs

In Willow Springs, Ward I incumbent Susan Rackley is running unopposed for a two-year term, and Ward I incumbent Troy Yonker is also running unopposed for his seat.

(Houston) – With spring on the way, its not too early to start looking ahead to the annual river clean-up events that go on in the area during the summer. The Top of the Ozarks Resource and Development group, along with the Piney River Watershed Committee, have announced the summer dates for clean-ups on the Jacks Fork, Upper Current, and Big Piney Rivers.

Ozark Radio News spoke with area forestry and communications specialist with Top of the Ozarks RCD, Peter Maki, who told us about the Big Piney River cleanup, which is scheduled for mid-June:

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Maki says that everyone is welcome to the clean-up, but they’re most in need of people with aquatic transportation. Maki also tells us some of the items that people who are planning on coming out to the clean-up should bring:

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Many of the items will be recycled, including tires, which he says continues to be a problem on the Piney River:

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For more information on the Piney River Clean-Up, call Peter Maki at 417-967-0676.

Other clean-ups include the Jacks Fork River Clean-Up on Saturday June 2 and the Current River Clean-Up Saturday June 16.

(Willow Springs) – Lanton Road in West Plains will be closed next week for pipe replacement under the roadway.

Representatives with MoDOT say the section of roadway will be Lanton Road just north of Business 63 (Bill Virdon Blvd) in West Plains.

Weather permitting, work will take place Monday, March 5 at 8 AM to Friday, March 9 at 5 PM. The work zone will be marked with signs. Motorists are urged to use extreme caution while traveling near the area.

(West Plains) – The next prequalification for the Ozarks Food Harvest Mobile Food Pantry will be from 4-5:45 PM Wednesday, March 7, at the West Plains Public Library Community Room. March’s mobile food pantry is being sponsored by Noon Rotary and Sunrise Rotary Clubs of West Plains.

Those eligible to apply for this assistance include area families with children ages birth through 18 who live within Howell County. This includes the communities of West Plains, Willow Springs and Mountain View. Previously, the criteria only included families who lived within the boundaries of the West Plains R-7 School District or surrounding rural school districts.

Students enrolled at Missouri State University-West Plains and the South Central Career Center also are eligible, provided they meet income guidelines. Missouri State students must present their student identification cards in person, as well as a current class schedule and can’t send them with a family member.

Those who apply should bring a photo ID, proof of income, proof of Howell County residency, names and ages of children, and a telephone number to the event. Proof of Howell County residency does not apply to Missouri State-West Plains or South Central Career Center students.

For more information about the Ozarks Food Harvest Mobile Food Pantry project, or if you are interested in volunteering or donating, contact officials at the West Plains American Red Cross at 417-257-0018.

(West Plains) – The West Plains R-7 Board of Education met Tuesday, February 21for their regular session meeting for the month.

After preliminary proceedings, the school board unanimously voted to approve the 2012-2013 calendar. The first day of school has been set for August 16, 2012 and the last day of school is set for May 16, 2013. The district calendar can be found online at www.zizzers.org.

It was also announced that South Central Career Center Director Brenda Smith, a 29 year veteran of the West Plains School District with 33 years of teaching experience, will be retiring from her positon. Smith has most recently served as the Director of the South Central Career Center for the past 5 years. Prior to that, she served as the Assistant Director/Adult Coordinator for 5 years and as a Family and Consumer Sciences teacher for 19 years. She is currently a member of the West Plains City Council.

Mrs. Smith was asked to return in a part-time role as the Adult Coordinator for the 2012-13 school year and she has agreed to do so. Josh Cotter, the current Adult Coordinator, will be transferring within the district to fill needed administrative vacancies.

It was also announced at the meeting that Jim Laughary, current West Plains High School Principal, will be transferring at the end of this school year to fill the vacancy left by Brenda Smith. Laughary has worked closely with the South Central Career Center as principal in both the West Plains and Bakersfield school districts. Board members were pleased to hear Brenda Smith will be able to serve as his mentor during this transition since she will be returning in a part time role.

The next board meeting has been scheduled for March 27 at 5:30 PM.

(Rolla) – Agencies with the federal government and the state of Missouri have come to an agreement on firefighting in state parks and how the various groups will support each other. Brett Stevens has more:

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(Jefferson City) – Ask State Senator Chuck Purgason about the current redistricting process and he doesn’t mince words:

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Despite uncertainty over the districts, Tuesday marked the first day of filing for political offices across the state.