Severe storms pounded the Four States Wednesday night — eight years to the day since an EF-5 Tornado flattened much of Joplin Missouri.
Numerous tornado, severe thunderstorm warnings, flash flood and river flood warnings were issued from Wednesday evening into Thursday.
On Wednesday evening Pittsburg officials activated storm sirens after rotation was observed near Kansas Crossing Casino and was headed toward the city.
Another funnel cloud was spotted by officials north west of Hepler area in the west part of Crawford County. Crawford County Emergency Management Director Jason VanBecelaere said officials believe this particular storm moved up into Bourbon county.
Crawford County did not receive any damage on Wednesday evening. The storm did, however, produce nickel-sized hail near Girard. As of Thursday morning, VanBecelaere said there was minor flooding from the rain which came through the area on Wednesday.
“We had enough of a break yesterday, all of the flooding went down enough, but the rain right now might bring it back up,” he said Thursday morning.
There were a few roads closed on Thursday because of flooding, including east of Ascension Via Christi Hospital on Centennial.
VanBecelaere is advising people to not drive around barricades and to “turn around, don’t drown.”
According to the National Weather Service Meteorologist Justin Titus said 1.8 inches of rain was reported from Girard and 2.5 inches of rain was reported from Columbus.
Titus said the environment Wednesday was unstable and it was moist and warm, “with that, numbers of supercell thunderstorm rolled across the area and in some areas more than once,” he said. “Typically strong thunderstorms persist a long time with large hail to damaging winds and flooding.”
According to Titus, the weather is forecast for more rain over the weekend, with 20-30 percent on Friday/Saturday and 60 percent for Saturday/Sunday. He said there is currently not a real strong pattern for severe storms.
Flooding could persist for a while, Titus said, roughly another since of rain is expected over the weekend with the additional rain over the week.
Wednesday’s storm resulted in flooding on the Spring River in Baxter Springs, where Kiwanis Park and Riverside Park were almost completely underwater on Thursday, with waters continuing to rise.
Floodwaters had also risen near Military Ave., submerging Seventh Street and reaching the treads of the M60 tank on display at the Baxter Springs Heritage Center and Museum. While picnic tables located just north of the museum were completely underwater before noon on Thursday, however, the museum itself was unaffected by the flooding and remained open.
Local homeowner Linda Feagin said the floodwaters have reached higher levels in recent years, and during one flood in the mid 1990s they got significantly higher.
“They did call them like the 50-year floods, until 1995 or whatever, and then we’ve had two since then,” Feagin said.
The Spring River had reached 27 feet deep by early Thursday afternoon — 13 feet above flood stage — although it previously reached that depth and deeper in both 2015 and 2017, according to the National Weather Service. The water level was projected to continue rising to 29 feet deep by midnight, at which point it would be higher than it has been since 2015.
Feagin used to own another house nearby, she said, which would have been flooded on Thursday given the level the water had already reached before noon, but she was required by the city to tear it down after past flooding in recent years.
In Missouri, Tornado damage was reported in the Briarbrook area of Carl Junction near Joplin and at Golden City, three people died after a tornado struck the community. 86-year old Kenneth Harris and his 83-year old wife, Opal Harris, both died outside their home. 56-year old Betty Berg also died and her husband, Mark, suffered serious injuries at their home west of Golden City.
Golden City is about 45 miles north of the Joplin Metro Area.
Other damage was reported area-wide from the storms.
Tornado damage was reported in the Briarbrook area of Carl Junction near Joplin and at Golden City, three people died after a tornado struck the community. 86-year old Kenneth Harris and his 83-year old wife, Opal Harris, both died outside their home. 56-year old Betty Berg also died and her husband, Mark, suffered serious injuries at their home west of Golden City. In Neosho, access to either of the city's main parks was limited due to water. At Big Spring Park, the spring that gives the park its name was overflowing through the park and into the street. At Morse Park, both roads into the park were blocked by water and were impassable. Shoal Creek was also out of its banks on the edge and north of Neosho into south Joplin. Tornado warnings were issued throughout the area including for Neosho around 1:30 a.m. on Thursday. Although there were no touch downs reported in the immediate Neosho area, law enforcement reported a funnel cloud near U.S. Highway 60 and Kodiak Road on the west edge of Neosho. Local storm shelters at three of the city's schools were filled with local residents who sought shelter from the storms.
Flooding continued in the region on Thursday, especially in the small community of Seneca, about eight miles west of Neosho and Shoal Creek in northern Newton County.
Jefferson City, Missouri's capital city, was hard hit by a tornado late Wednesday.
Miami picked up an additional 3.79 inches of rain overnight — right at the amount that the National Weather Service had predicted earlier in the day.
“They had predicted 3.78, so they were pretty accurate,” said Miami Police Chief and Emergency Management Director Thomas Anderson.
There was a funnel northwest of Commerce and there were sightings in the Afton, Fairland and Wyandotte areas, but most damage came in Delaware County.
“Tornados were popping up left and right. Every time I looked, the NWS was ‘hey, there’s a tornado here,’ and hey, there’s a tornado there,” said Anderson, who had not received an updated total of businesses and homes that have been affected.
Ottawa County Emergency Management director Chad Holcomb reported there was damage throughout the county.
“There were a couple homes damaged and power lines down,” Holcomb said Thursday morning. “I really haven’t had time to make a damage assessment yet.”
The forecast was updated Wednesday afternoon with all the potential rainfall over the next 18 hours.
“For the Neosho basin, that was about 3.78 inches, which is a lot of water, so that took the river really up high,” meteorologist Nicole McGavock with the National Weather Service’s office in Tulsa said during a afternoon briefing with Miami emergency personnel.
“Visiting with the River Forecast Center, they asked if I wanted to bring that down a little bit and I felt it was a better option to err on the side of caution and go a little bit high and if we don’t get that much rain, then we can back down,” she said. “I would rather have folks prepared as opposed to being surprised by it.”
As a result, with no further rain, the Neosho River should be at 24.6 feet — which is in the major flood category — and should crest at 25.6 by Saturday morning.
That’s not quite as high as 1986, when it was 26.23 inches.
As a result, the Miami Fire Department’s South station was evacuated as well as numerous businesses along Steve Owens Blvd. and in the vicinity of the Miami Fairgrounds.
Inmates from the Ottawa County Jail were used to clear out the fire station as well as Nott’s Grocery.
The landmark Miami store is just north of the fire station.
The MFD as well as the Quapaw Tribe Fire/EMS Department have assisted with countless water rescues.
Anderson said another NWS briefing was scheduled for Thursday afternoon.
The American Red Cross has a shelter for families affected by the flood at First Christian Church.
Anderson said pumps at the Miami Swimming Pool were pulled Monday and water had breached the pool Thursday morning.
Saturday was supposed to be its opening day for the summer of 2019.
As of 6:30 a.m. Thursday, the Grand Lake level was 754.90 feet. Normally for May 23, it is 743.47 feet.
At the direction of the United States Army Corps of Engineers, nine main and three east spillway gates were open at Pensacola Dam, discharging 163,421 cubic feet per second (cfs) of water.
Six units were online at the Pensacola Dam powerhouse, releasing 12,073 cfs of water through generation.
Releases through floodgates and generation totaled 175,494 cfs.
Inflows into Grand Lake totaled 154,919 cfs.
According to the MPD, road closures included: Steve Owens Blvd; 69A at Buffalo Run Casino; A NE; C NE; E NE; Veterans Blvd; 5th and H NE; Newman Road; Central; BJ Tunnell at H NW; 22nd east of the tracks; Brookside; P NW; 2nd and L NW; North Elm; 5th and B SW; South Elm; Rockdale at Tar Creek, and Brookside.
And the number of closed roads in Ottawa County has increased. According to the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, as of Thursday morning, it was: SH-125 one mile south of SH-10 in Miami; US-59/SH-10 one mile west of US-69; SH10 between US-69 and the SH-69A junction in Miami; SH-69A 1.5 miles north of SH-10 near Miami, and US-69A 1.4 miles east of US-69 near Quapaw.
Delaware County, Oklahoma
A tornado touched down in the Starr Subdivision in north Jay, damaging multiple homes and bringing down major power lines, before traveling to Deerlick Road, and then into the Whitewater/Butler areas.
A second tornado, traveling from Big Cabin and Vinita, touched down outside of Afton in the Carriage Hills Resort, before traveling to Fairland and Wyandotte and eventually into southwest Missouri.
As of press time, both storms were being evaluated for their strength by members of the National Weather Service out of Tulsa.
A third tornado, which touched down in Leach after hitting Peggs on Monday, May 20, has been preliminarily rated as an EF2. That storm caused damage in southern Delaware County to trees, chicken houses and a few homes.
Damage in Jay
The damage from the tornado which struck Jay caused the city to lose power. As of press time Thursday, crews from PSO and other agencies were working to restore power to the area.
The outage also left Jay residents operating under a boil order for tap water. Volunteers from numerous business and organizations including Cherokee Nation, Grand Savings Bank, Church of the Shepherd in Grove, Jay First Assembly of God and others brought water to the Jay Fire Department for dispersal.
Most of the businesses in the Jay area were closed on Thursday due to the power outage, including the Delaware County Courthouse.
Delaware County Sheriff Harlan Moore said the jail and sheriff's office continued to operate using a generator system. He said water was also brought into the jail for the inmates.
Moore said his deputies are still assessing damage throughout the county.
He said as of mid-day Thursday only three people reported receiving injuries which did not require hospitalization.
One death has been linked to the storm. The exact cause was unknown as of press time.
Medical Clinic damage
Dr. Richard Tidwell's office, OCH Family Medicine Clinic, located at the corner of U.S. Highway 59 and Deerlick Road sustained some roof damage in the storm.
Tidwell said volunteers and staff members worked into the night securing the roof with tarps and moving stuff around inside the building.
He said winds stripped off shingles and parts of the roof deck, exposing rafters.
He said overall the office sustained very little water damage. He anticipates re-opening pending repairs and power restoration.
"We were really good, much better than some other people," Tidwell said.
Whitewater/Butler Area/Carriage Hills
David Poindexter, District 1 County Commissioner, said once the tornado left Jay and the Deerlick area, it traveled what appeared to be the same path of the May 22, 2011 tornado into the Butler/Whitewater area.
The area around Deerlick Road impacted homes within a half-mile stretch.
He was still assessing damage as of press time for his area, but said the storm's impact included tree damage, some residential damage caused by trees, and downed power lines.
He said at least one home, near the Butler Fire Department, suffered extensive damage to the structure.
Poindexter said the damage at Carriage Hills Resort, which is located on Horse Creek between Bernice and Highway 59 appeared to be limited to significant tree damage.
Poindexter said the area is also being impacted by rising waters in Horse Creek, causing roadways into the resort to be either tree or water covered.
Lending a hand
Moore said more departments, than he can count or acknowledge properly, provided assistance to the Jay and Delaware County first responders.
"I'm very thankful for all of the emergency services who showed up," Moore said. "You name the fire department, they were here. We even had to turn some away."
Fire departments assisting included Grove, Salina, Locust Grove, Oaks, Lakemont, and Leach.
Law enforcement agencies lending personnel included the Grand River Dam Authority Police Department, Oklahoma Highway Patrol, Cherokee Nation and Grove Police Department.
"The cleanup is going to take awhile, but we are all relatively pretty damn lucky," Moore said. "If this [tornado] had gone a fourth of a mile south, it would have gone straight through Jay."
Jay Mayor Becki Farley said the city has been very blessed to receive assistance from area and state agencies, including Cherokee Nation and Rep. Josh West (R-Grove).
She said city officials including David Brewster, director of operations for utilities; Jay Police Chief Mike Shambaugh; Jay Fire Chief Brandon Alexander; City Treasurer Kay Pickup; and City Clerk Camrine Thompson, as well as their employees, have worked above and beyond the call of duty both during and after the storm.
"I am just amazed and thrilled at how this team has worked on this," Farley said. "I'm just proud everyone is working hard and together. It's just been incredible."
Farley said people have contacted her, ready to start helping with cleanup. She said those efforts limited until the power lines are repaired and it's safe to go into those areas.
"We will work on those efforts to organize that, when it is appropriate," Farley said