Powerful storms that spawned a tornado, pummeling rain, palm-sized hail and a swift-water rescue created a hazardous and busy day for local agencies protecting McDonald County neighbors during tanking weather conditions.
The atmosphere was ripe for storms on that Tuesday, April 30. Several agencies had their hands full trying to keep an eye on developing storms and the aftermath.
"The cap on the atmosphere had eroded," said Gregg Sweeten, McDonald County Emergency Management Agency director.
"It's springtime. You have to be ready for that," he said. "We had one cell right after the other. It's destined to happen."
State officials are assessing damage from the storms that swept through several portions of the state. Officials will have to determine that the state sustained $8 million in damage to qualify for President Donald Trump's consideration for federal aid. McDonald County would have to sustain an $80,000 threshold for aid, Sweeten said.
Throughout mid-to-late Tuesday afternoon, various storms began to pop up in the area. One cell spawned a tornado, which ignited about five miles southwest of Rocky Comfort, Sweeten said. It touched down for the first time just south of Longview. A Stella fireman serving as a storm spotter first saw the tornado touch down. He alerted Sweeten, who then was able to access the statewide emergency management radio and directly alert Barry County about a tornado on the ground, heading toward Wheaton.
National Weather Service officials in the Springfield office last week confirmed the tornado, which sustained winds of 110 mph.
A National Weather Service Survey team conducted research and said the E-1 tornado touched down around 3:42 p.m., and was on the ground for about 22 minutes.
The tornado path measured 12 miles long and about eight football fields wide, Sweeten said. Numerous buildings were damaged or destroyed in the Wheaton area. Hundreds of trees were uprooted.
McDonald County only sustained damage to a barn, powerlines and had downed trees, mainly because the tornado traveled through rural areas. Spotters also told Sweeten the tornado dropped several times.
The Stella fireman, a Missouri State trooper and McDonald County Sheriff Mike Hall served as spotters.
"They said it was back up, then back down. It was up and down a few times. It basically missed everything on our side," Sweeten said.
"If we have to have a tornado, we'll take this one. We had no injuries, no deaths and no property damage."
Sweeten kept track of the storms breaking out while watching approaching storms in Oklahoma and weather activity in Springfield.
The incredibly volatile atmosphere spurred various cells. One weather event in the county alone spurred 95 warnings, Sweeten said. National Weather Service officials also determined 26 confirmed tornadoes in the April 30 tornado outbreak in the Ozarks.
Various spotters in the field did an awesome job, Sweeten said. Fire, police and sheriff's office personnel provided on-the-scene information.
McDonald County certainly was fortunate not to have major damage or additional tornadoes sweep through. In fact, data captured from a storm cell near Goodman indicated good rotation. "It should have dropped a tornado," Sweeten said, but, thankfully, didn't develop.
In other areas, the county experienced palm-sized hail, about three inches in diameter, he said.
The Elk River crested at 20.2 feet, about seven feet lower than the last recorded flood in April 2017.
The river is measured at the gauge, located at Tiff City, he said.
Now that gravel is in the Elk River streambed, the extra water has nowhere to go except outside the banks, he said.
Several roads were closed, thanks to the five inches of rain that fell. Water covered roads and several were damaged. School was closed on Wednesday, May 1. Highways H, E and 76 were closed with water over the roads. Highway E was closed for most of the day and night, due to pavement damage, Sweeten said.
About five or six county roads also were closed. With school open on Thursday, May 2, Sweeten said he heard that some of the bus drivers still had problems with some of the roads on their routes.
General News on 05/09/2019
Print Headline: County Experiences Torrential Rain, Flooding, Tornado