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Severe weather hit several counties in the Ozarks Thursday morning. Howell and Taney Counties saw tornado warnings, and in Douglas County, two elderly residents narrowly escaped drowning during a dramatic water rescue. KSMU’s Jennifer Davidson was in Howell County when the sirens went off there.
Reporter standup: “Right now, I’m standing at the entrance of the FEMA shelter in central West Plains on the MSU-WP campus. It’s about 10:00 in the morning, and Howell County is under a tornado warning at the moment. Students, including college basketball players, and faculty and staff members are trickling in through the door, greeted by Chancellor Drew Bennett—but we also see a lot of community members from local banks, and other institutions. It really goes to show how much of a role a shelter like this plays in a small-town community.”
The warning was cancelled by mid-morning, and the 300 or so people in the shelter dispersed…including about a dozen toddlers from a nearby daycare.
[Sound:children leaving the building]
This shelter was built primarily with FEMA money – federal dollars – but supplemented by student fees. It also functions as the Student Rec Center here on campus.
Over in Douglas County, Sherriff Chris Degase described a dramatic rescue that took place when floodwaters threatened a mobile home in a low-lying area. First responders arrived to find water surrounding the home for about 100 yards, and already four feet up the wall of the mobile home.
“We ended up contacting the State Water Patrol, and they brought in a boat to rescue the folks.It was in a very congested area. As the boat got the victims loaded, as it was leaving, there were some wires somewhere underneath the water that got in the prop, and it actually killed the motor. Subsequently, the boat ended up capsizing,” Degase said.
As the boat capsized, several water patrol officers as well as first responders went into the water, but they grabbed the two elderly flood victims and got them to dry land.
Also in Douglas County, which is very hilly terrain dotted by numerous creeks and rivers, a school bus carrying kids from Ava Public Schools was stranded between two water crossings. Sherriff Degase says they disembarked the bus and hung out at a nearby home, where they got to watch TV and eat cinnamon rolls while they waited for the waters to subside.
As always, safety experts remind residents to invest in a NOAA Weather Radio for alerts and updates in your specific area, and also to never cross a roadway with even a small amount of water on it.
For KSMU News, I’m Jennifer Davidson.