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Kolb Recalls Night of Tornado

by Rachel Dickerson | April 1, 2021 at 9:11 a.m.
RACHEL DICKERSON/MCDONALD COUNTY PRESS Dennis Kolb of Goodman's emergency management office recently shared memories about the tornado that struck the town four years ago.

Dennis Kolb, who until recently served as Goodman's emergency management director for 13 years, recently recalled events of the April 4, 2017, tornado that struck the city.

He said he was monitoring his screens that night.

"I saw the tornado form. It was moving away from us. It turned and came back at us," he said.

He said he had about a three-and-a-half-minute window. He went outside and told the people at the church across the street to get back inside. Then he called city hall because there was a city council meeting going on.

"I could hear it. I could feel the pressure changes," he said.

The tornado destroyed the fire department and the school. It warped the door of the police department next door to the emergency management office, he said. A patrol car and an ice cream truck got hit. The ice cream man appeared to be in shock, so Kolb called an ambulance for him. Then he and two volunteer firefighters went to the site of the school, fearing the worst for Lucky the janitor, only to find out he had gotten out safely.

"The real heroes of the tornado were the people themselves," he said. "Everyone in our city worked very, very hard to help the citizens. Their house is torn up and they're out here helping their neighbor. It's the businesses and the people."

Kolb began serving as emergency management director when Tom West was chief of police in Goodman.

"He contacted me and asked if I would do it. He knew I would apply myself," he said.

Kolb has a history in law enforcement and public service and has been interested in weather since he was a child. Much of the equipment at the emergency management office belongs to him, about $5,000 worth, he said, including an antenna and a weather system.

"I wanted to do the job correctly," he said.

He has taken some 160 tests in connection with the work, some that could count for college credit.

Kolb also teaches Boy Scouts and young people not to fear storms but to respect them, he said. He teaches them there is a difference between emergency management and other emergency services such as police, fire and ambulance services.

"We cannot handcuff a tornado. We can't knock it down with a stream of water or put a Band-Aid on it," he said.

Kolb said he took a team to Joplin for four days after the tornado in 2011. They searched sites for missing people, worked with local law enforcement, and removed debris.

"The citizens of Joplin were the real heroes. Hundreds of thousands came to help," he said.

He noted the 9/11 flag came to town and two of his staff members were asked to help hold it up during a ceremony.

Kolb's past experience goes back many years to when he was a reserve police officer in Kirkwood, Mo. He went to the reserve academy and was on the street for six months and then was a reserve officer for 10 years, earning the title Reserve Officer of the Year one year. During this time, he also flew search and rescue for the Civil Air Patrol during flooding and other issues for 10 years.

Later he worked for Kline Fire Department in Texas for six to seven years, where he became a training officer.

After that, he worked with the Delaware County Emergency Management in Oklahoma as a volunteer for four to five years, which served as a foundation for the work he has done in Goodman.

He has also done search and recovery diving over the years.

Kolb is now taking second place in Goodman Emergency Management as Police Chief Adam Miller takes over as director, and Kolb will train Miller in his new position. At 76 years old and with the covid-19 pandemic going on, Kolb was concerned about someone being available to take over the position if something were to happen to him.

"I've got to protect the city. These people are our family. We have a tremendous amount of good people here in Goodman," he said.


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