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Monday, May 2, 2016

Power outages cripple many

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Photos by Steven Looney
Jan Thompson

Staff Writer

The Oregon County/Mammoth Spring area is in restoration mode after two to three inches of ice followed by an inch or more of snow blanketed northern Arkansas and southern Missouri last week.

Mammoth Spring

Ice pounded the city of Mammoth Spring starting Jan. 27. Mammoth Spring Mayor Jean Pace said for three days following, the city was pretty much in the dark. "Our police department was on patrol three nights while the town was dark and one city employee stayed at the city shop around the clock," the mayor said.

Entergy, which supplies electricity to the city, had some power restored by Jan. 30 and more customers received electricity on Saturday.

Pace said what really saved the city was the new generator at the city well. "Our residents were never without water like some communities," she said.

Pace and Police Chief Michael Davis were available to deliver food to anyone that needed it and in several instances did so.

"Entergy did a terrific job during this ice storm. They worked from daylight to 8:30 or 9 p.m. most evenings. Most of our streets were passable and businesses were back open by Friday. I would also like to commend some of the members of our volunteer fire department. They went house to house checking on people, making sure they were all right. They also had bottled water at the fire station to hand out to residents outside the city who needed water," Mayor Pace said.

As for the downed trees and tree limbs and general debris in the city, the mayor said she had been in touch with Salem Police Chief Albert Roork and the county will pick up the debris. "Just pile it next to the street and when time allows county workers will pick it up," she said.

As of Feb. 2, a few residents in the city remained without electricity, but the mayor was hopeful it would be up and going soon.

The Mammoth Spring State Park closed due to downed trees and will be opened at a later date.


Thayer probably took the brunt of the ice storm in Oregon County.

"As of Jan. 27 at 12:40 p.m., 100 percent of the residents of the city of Thayer were without electricity," said Thayer Mayor Merle Williams. He said ice built-up on trees causing them to fall on power lines. Entergy supplies the city with electricity and Williams said Entergy's transmission lines were down adding to the severe situation in the city.

Utility crews from Springfield as well as volunteers from AmeriCorps, based in Poplar Bluff, came to the aid of city workers.

The National Guard was also in Thayer to help with the clean-up.

Williams said tree trimmers from St. Louis helped in trimming downed limbs. He said he expected two more tree trimming teams in the area this week.

"Our city electrical department serves about 1,000 residents with Howell-Oregon serving the rest of the city's remaining just over 1,000 residents," he said. Williams said power began to be restored to portions of Thayer on Saturday.

As of Feb. 2, Williams said approximately 70 percent of electricity had been restored in Thayer.

"My major concern was the city water wells. The new generater at the waste water treatment plant has paid off," the mayor said.

The city is under a boil water order and probably will be for the remainder of the week. "We have to get the lines up to pressure," he said.

As of Monday all streets in Thayer were passable.

Williams said there were two shelters set up in Thayer, one at the First Baptist Church Activity Center and one at the Chapel Hill Freewill Baptist Church. He said approximately 80 people were served at the shelters. Drinking water was donated to the city be the local Town and Country Grocery Store, the Thayer Walmart and the National Guard.

"I can't say enough about the support shown in this community. Donna Martin at the Christian Activity Center did a fantastic job, as well as Shelia Russell with the Oregon County Health Department. She brought nurses to the shelters in case they were needed," the mayor said.

The Red Cross brought a shower unit to the shelter that the mayor said was greatly appreciated.

"We contracted with a company from Branson that brought a generater that we hooked up to the water tower on Barton Hill," the mayor said.

"Mark Arnold has served as the Thayer emergency management director for many years. He did an excellent job coordinating and contacting agencies to get help in our area," Williams said.

"I have never dealt with anything on this grand of a scale," Arnold said. "We have had power outages, wind storms, floods. Nothing that this city has ever seen compares with the amount of work that is being done to restore power to residents and businesses. It's a massive effort. I had one Thayer resident tell me in his 67 years he has never seen anything that has caused this amount of damage."

He said there are a few power lines still down in the city but as of Monday things were looking up.

"There are so many people that helped us during our time of crisis. Connie Ward who is a cook at Thayer High School cooked food that was in the freezers at the school and supplied the shelters in town with three meals a day. Thayer Superintendent Rod Priest and Donna Martin from the Christian Activity Center both have been a great help. Pastors Jim Denbow from Chapel Hill and David Lindgens from the Thayer First Baptist Church were of great help. We appreciated all the volunteers at both the shelters," he said.

Arnold said everyone from the city utility workers from Springfield, to the volunteers that came from Howell and Texas County were great to work with. "Twenty volunteers from these counties went door to door checking on the well-being of area citizens," Arnold said.

Arnold said he was just trying to do his job as best as he knew how. "The real credit goes to everyone that had a role in this storm recovery effort," he said.

Arnold said he is sure he has or will miss some special people that have helped with the recovery efforts. "Jason Greer manager of Thayer Walmart, and Thayer Town and Country both donated water. Mike and Mike at the radio station need to be commended for helping us get the word out. Anyone I have forgotten or left out I hope they will please forgive me," he said.

Thayer Police Chief David Bailey said he is proud of all of his officers during the storm and recovery efforts. "We had officers working 12, 14 and 15 hour days and we are not sure they will even get paid for their overtime," Bailey said.

He said the police department was kept open by borrowing a generator from the Howell County Rural Fire Department.

"Our officers went door to door carrying food and water to people who needed it. We transported people who needed help to the shelters and they checked on the sick and elderly," the police chief said.

Oregon County Presiding Commissioner Leo Warren said most roads in the county are passable. "There is still a lot of clean-up work that needs to be done in both the southern portion and northern portions of the county," Warren said.

He said about 16 to 20 Missouri Department of Conservation officers were sent to Oregon County to help with removing trees and limbs from county roads and their help was greatly appreciated.

"Power has been mostly restored to the Alton area but more rural communities are still struggling with electricity," he said.

Warren said there is no county burn ban. It will be up to individual communities to establish those. "I know this past week has been very frustrating. We appreciate the patience of the people of the county. They have been great," he said.

Warren said he would also like to remind residents of the county there is drinking water available at the sheriff's office and the Thayer Police Department.

Howell Oregon Electric Cooperative and 40 additional outside crews continue to work the largest ice storm to hit the cooperative's electrical system. As of Feb. 2, the crews were able to restore 50 major feeder lines. According to Member Service Manager Myles Smith, progress is being made, yet the progress is far from over. "The cooperative may still have to replace as many as 275 power poles by the end of the restoration process," he said.

Smith said there are 175 extra people working on the system.

At 5:30 a.m. Feb. 2, 2,722 members were without power. "The cooperative currently has work to be done on 13 sub-stations and many individual outages to be complete," Smith said.

"We use a tried and proven method of restoring power, starting with the main feeder lines from each sub-station where there is damage. After the main feeder lines are safely reconstructed, individual lines can be rebuilt to bring all the power back on line. It could be next week before all power has been restored," Smith said.

At 5 a.m. Feb. 3 the cooperative reported 651 members without power. They currently have work to be done on eight sub-stations and many of the outages are individual outages.

The cooperative encourages members to check on neighbors to make sure they are safe and warm. "If you see a downed power line, it is vital that you stay away from it and contact the corporative," Smith said.


The cities of Mammoth Spring and Thayer have both announced there are burn bans in place in their cities.

They are asking area residents to place the debris along the street and it will be picked up as soon as possible.

The Thayer Assembly of God Church is offering free tree debris clean up.

Area residents that need assistance can call 417-280-0646 between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. or apply at the church during the same business hours.

A spokesperson from the church said the elderly and low income would be the first served.

A false rumor has circulated in the area that FEMA will reimburse anyone who has purchased a generator in recent weeks.

FEMA does not reimburse generator purchases, except in extremely rare circumstances of documented medical or extraordinary needs.

Gov. Jay Nixon announced Jan. 30 that President Barack Obama has approved his request for a Disaster Declaration for Missouri, as a result of the severe Jan. 26-28 winter storms.

As of Jan. 30, the storm left 88,000 homes and businesses in southeast and southern Missouri without power and is blamed for deaths of six people.

The governor personally spoke to the president.

"We will continue to work around the clock to bring in state resources to help local officials," Nixon said. "My thanks goes to those Missourians who have worked tirelessly to help their fellow citizens.

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