Equipment and staff the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) normally uses to improve habitat and fight fires is being used this week to help residents of tornado-stricken areas clean up and begin rebuilding their communities.
MDC crews have worked around the clock since May 4 providing disaster relief assistance in communities damaged by the series of devastating thunderstorms and tornados that have swept through the state. Dozens of crews from the Conservation Department's Forestry, Wildlife, Protection, Fisheries and Private Land Services Divisions and Design and Development Section are helping with cleanup efforts in Stockton, Camdenton, Carl Junction, Liberty, Pierce City and other Missouri towns that were severely damaged by violent spring storms.
On May 5 Conservation Department Director John Hoskins advised staff to seek opportunities to assist with their local communities' disaster relief efforts. Hoskins also authorized use of any equipment needed to help with tornado damage recovery.
Assistance from the agency's foresters has been essential in areas where downed trees have caused problems for homeowners and emergency medical crews.
"The destruction caused by the storms here is far more than the local emergency management organizations can handle alone," said Camdenton-based MDC Resource Forester Dennis Rhoades. "Fallen trees were blocking roads and preventing ambulances from reaching the injured and downed trees on private property posed threats to the safety of local residents. Our experience makes us the right people to take care of those problems. We have the training and experience needed to quickly and safely clear downed trees without causing further damage."
Rhoades says the 20-member staff in his office along with volunteers from the Conservation Departments' central office in Jefferson City also are assisting with the American Red Cross disaster relief efforts in Camdenton.
"The people affected by these storms are our friends and neighbors," says Rhodes, "so anytime we're notified of need we're going to do what we can to help out."
The Conservation Depart-ment staff has been instrumental in recovery efforts throughout storm-damaged areas of the state. The disaster efforts Conservation Department staff has assisted with include:
* removing trees to open Highway 5 south of Camdenton and roadways in Stockton and Pierce City
* clearing and disposal of debris in Carl Junction, Camdenton, Pierce City and Stockton
* clearing and removing debris from private residences in Liberty, Camdenton and the Martha Lafeet Thompson Nature Sanctuary.
When the Conservation Department completes its disaster relief efforts in local communities, the agency will assess and repair damage to Conservation lands.