Storm prompts water rescues

Friday, November 26, 2010
Evidence of high water from Wednesday night's rains in Monett can still be found at the low water bridge on Farm Road 1050, east of Pierce City. Large tree limbs lodged in the fence line four feet above the bridge, reflecting the height of the water as Clear Creek reached flood stages but did not swamp the landscape. [Times Photo by Murray Bishoff]

Monett City and Barry County Emergency Management Offices activated a joint Emergency Operations Center during Wednesday's severe weather event.

The National Weather Service confirmed three tornadoes in southwest Missouri. One was spotted in southern Polk County, a second at Highway 13 at the Greene-Polk County line, and the third was spotted at Wheatland and Cross Timbers in Hickory County.

In Barry County, residents had severe thunderstorm activity and flash flooding concerns.

The Barry County EOC, in conjunction with the Monett EOC, activated at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon in anticipation on severe weather hitting the area.

"Most of the storms appeared to be tracking north of us," said David Compton, director of the Barry County Office of Emergency Management.

At 8:37 p.m., the tornado sirens were sounded in Freistatt at the request of the village fire chief. The storm passed through Diamond, blowing over a tractor trailer, before passing north of Pierce City and Freistatt.

A second storm rolled into the Monett area around 9:15 p.m., bringing heavy rain that continued steadily for several hours. The official weather gauge in Pierce City recorded 3.35 inches overnight.

By 10 p.m., reports of flooding were being reported to emergency management officials. In Monett, Brown Street, Roosevelt Street, Kyler and Highway 60, Third and Cleveland, and Boys Street all had significant flooding. In Pierce City, Highway 97 south of Highway 37 was reported under water, as was the intersection at Main and Gibbs.

Monett City officials sounded tornado sirens at 11 p.m., and opened the shelter at the Monett Justice Center, where approximately 25 people sought refuge. A few power outages were reported, and city and rural firefighters were called for two water rescues.

The first, at Meadowmere and Eisenhower, involved one person and a dog; the second involved removing two people from a vehicle at Powerline Road at the low water bridge.

"If not for the rapid response of city and rural firefighters and police officers being able to respond so quickly to the scene, these could have been tragic water events," Compton said.

"At 11 p.m., we saw in McDonald County what appeared to be a rain event, heading our way," Compton said. "All of the spotters calling in said it was a rain event. Then on the [NOAA weather tracking] screen, there was suddenly a meso and tornado vortex."

Mesocyclones are associated with a localized low-pressure region within a severe thunderstorm. Such storms can feature strong winds and severe hail. Mesocyclones often occur with updrafts in supercells, where tornadoes may form.

"This was a very unusual storm," Compton continued. "The top of that storm was at 13,000 feet. It was a small storm."

One motor vehicle accident in the city of Monett involved an officer and another subject who was later arrested for driving while intoxicated.

Officials activated the flood tree at midnight, when Kelly Creek was reported at 2.5 feet from the bank and rising approximately one foot every 15 minutes. No flooding on Broadway was reported before waters began to recede.

Officials manned the joint EOC operation until 2:30 a.m. on Thursday.

"We waited until all of the water rescues were done and the majority of the flooding had peaked and started to recede," Compton said.

No tornadic activity was reported in the Barry-Lawrence county area.

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