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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Mother Nature's Wrath

Thursday, February 5, 2009

If you have watched a war movie on television or in a theater or have been in a war zone (or maybe East L.A.), then the sounds of gunfire and explosions everywhere around you are what you might have experienced. Tuesday night, Jan. 27, the cities of Thayer, Mammoth Spring and surrounding areas had all those sounds and more and could have been considered a war zone.

The weather predictions came true! All of the television station forecasters, the Internet weather channels and local radio, predicted heavy rain, sleet mix with freezing temperatures, and that is what the entire area received.

In anxious preventative measures, all area schools closed early to ensure children were safely home prior to any hazardous road conditions. Sporting events, club, church and social events, government meetings and evening college classes were cancelled.

The volume of shoppers at the Thayer Wal-mart may have rivaled pre-Christmas crowds pushing carts filled with basic food staples, baby food, bottled water, dog and cat food, soft drinks, chips, spare flashlights with batteries and that necessary supply of toilet paper.

Shoppers also flocked to local grocery stores to stock up on essential items of canned goods, water, bread and a volume of milk, which must have run the cows dry. A stocker at one store was working almost full-time to keep up with demand for milk.

The supply of flashlight batteries was completely depleted at one retail store and other battery sizes looked were short supply. Retail outlets who usually carry a variety of different sizes of power generators, ran out of stock as local residents prepared for the worst.

While making all the stops needed to gather extra supplies, the light misty rain that was falling, turned into drops. As the late afternoon daylight and temperature made its drop, the water droplets began to freeze on the outside of cars and exposed areas. Although it was not necessary to scrape car windshields just yet, it was not far off.

From the reflected light of a street lamp, the glistening of ice became increasingly evident. A mixture of freezing rain and sleet continued to fall into late night, before the ground became covered solid white with sleet.

Tuesday morning's sunrise brought to light the sparkle of a layer of ice crystals frozen over everything. New winter growth on trees, bushes and shrubs, were all encased in a layer of ice. As the hours of the day passed, there continued a steady downpour of light rain and sleet.

Temperatures throughout the day never rose above the freezing mark, as streets became impassable and the trees began to droop like a weeping willow under the weight of the increasing ice clinging to each branch and limb.

Long before the sun went down, residents all over the city of Thayer, Mammoth Spring and surrounding areas, began to experience what could be compared to opening day of hunting season, or a war zone, as tree tops, branches and limbs popped. With a sound equal to the noise of a gunshot, trees and limbs shattered and came crashing down. Power, telephone and television cable lines, were ripped from connections by the force of crashing limbs or the shear weight and the amount of icicles hanging from each span.

Without electricity, a scramble started for extra gasoline to run generators. Unfortunately, all retail outlets use electricity to pump gas from their tanks to whatever container or vehicle and need electricity to run computers and cash registers.

With the onset of darkness, came an increase in the sounds of fireworks. On all sides, in every direction, was heard the loud echoing sounds of trees breaking and crashing to the ground under the weight of ice. Falling on rooftops, sheds, cars, streets or in open fields, there was no place safe. Trees that were old, young, huge, small, hardwood or not, none were spared the splintering effects of this storm.

MoDot crews were out with the salt/sand trucks in an attempt to keep state Highway 63 passable, but seemed to be fighting a losing battle. Sometime late in the night to early morning, snowfall compounded the already difficult task of road crews. Snowplows were employed in a successful attempt to keep the highway from compacting. Only the extremely hearty and trucks on a tight deadline, were able to move at a snail's pace along the roadways.

In the midst of weather and road conditions, the Thayer Volunteer Fire Department was dispatched to a residence fire. The unoccupied house on 142 West was engulfed in flames by the time firefighters received the call and were able to respond to the scene. The hazardous roads and cold weather made it even more dangerous than normal conditions.

With power out, the number of area residents without heat was countless. Neighbors took in neighbors, families squeezed in extra kids, grandkids and great-grandkids to combat the bitter cold. People with four-wheel drive trucks or regular pickups with wood, feed sacks or concrete blocks piled high for extra traction weight in the back, inched their way up and down streets and lanes, stopping to check on people, or just to pass along the slightest bit of information they had gathered while out and about.

Through the night and into Wednesday morning, the moisture mix turned to snow. With the first light of dawn, the shattered splinters of downed tree limbs and power lines already covered with ice were topped with a layer of wet powder snow.

Thayer city crews were on the move with backhoes, the salt/sand spreader truck and dump truck with snow plow on the front. City crews used the backhoe bucket to clear a path on city streets by pushing tree limbs and debris to the edge of streets. City workers were able to keep major city street arteries cleared and open while working on making streets at least one lane passable throughout town.

Residents of both Thayer and Mammoth Spring suffered with no electricity. Neighbors helped neighbors, while police and National Guard checked house to house.

Harps grocery was able to get back up and running with the use of a generator. Sonic at the state line, was serving to a full house all during daylight hours. The Flash Market at the state line was utilizing a generator to pump gas. Being the only station open, the gas line was out to Highway 63. Flash Market had traffic directors to assist and control the flow of vehicles. It was taking anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes waiting in line before reaching a pumping station. An employee said, "We're almost out of gas, but we have another tanker truck on the way."

The Mammoth Spring Lodge was without power, but did have water and was open for business, housing some of the extra power crews and a few residents who had no power or water at home.

Water now became a big issue. The city of Thayer runs three wells to provide the city with water needs. Water pressure dropped to nil in some places, to a light trickle in others, with only one pump working.

Emergency water supplies came into the city and became available to the public. The Thayer Police garage served as the storage and distribution center.

The Mobile Emergency Command Center set up operations behind the Thayer Police and Fire Station to coordinate relief efforts and to be an information center.

Saturday came with sunshine and 50 degrees, causing ice to melt, springing trees back closer to normal. Melting ice came crashing down from power lines, roof tops and tree tops, making it unsafe to be walking out doors.

Mammoth Spring Volunteer Fire Department was called to a house fire Saturday afternoon. Responders and power crews arrived to find the house two-thirds of the way destroyed while still ablaze. Firefighters made every effort to salvage what remained but were only able to contain what was left.

On Sunday, you could hear the sounds of chain saws ripping away at scattered debris everywhere, as the sun continued to melt away at the snow/ice covered ground. As crews work diligently, small pockets of town have been reporting restored electricity with hope of getting power back to everyone before too long.

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Great story but glad I wasn't there!

-- Posted by tony1883 on Fri, Feb 13, 2009, at 10:51 AM

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