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Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016

Tornado threat is a dangerous reality to area

Sunday, May 11, 2003

MORLEY -- When Karen and Mark Breedlove heard the tornado sirens go off around 9 p.m. Sunday in Morley, they headed to a safer place in their rock home which is located one quarter of a mile south of Morley.

Fifteen minutes later, it was over and the Breedloves were surveying the damage to their property -- an uprooted tree and fallen power lines.

"We were really lucky because about a mile west of us, a mobile home was completely destroyed," Karen Breedlove said. "The next day, my husband and I drove around to look at the damage. We could see where a tornado had torn through one lady's fence row.

She continued: "After we got home, we looked at aerial maps to pinpoint where the destruction occurred, and from our house to the fence row to the destroyed mobile home, it was an exact straight line."

Breedlove didn't see the tornado and said she doubts it was on the ground yet when it reached their home. The couple sought shelter in their bathroom since there weren't any windows in there.

"Everything seemed to happen really fast, and then it was over. Before the storm it was so quiet and then the wind picked up, but it really was like they say -- the calm before the storm," Breedlove noted.

Experiences like the Breedlove's has been common in the area as well as the rest of the nation this week, said Scott County Emergency Management Director Joe Burton.

"The tornado that hit Morley Sunday night was classified as an F-2 tornado, which means it had a wind speed of about 110 miles per hour," Burton said.

Another tornado hit Scott County Tuesday night about one mile north of Benton that damaged about six or seven homes, uprooted trees and tore siding off of houses, Burton said, adding that the damage was minor.

The last big tornado Sikeston saw was in May 1985. It caused a lot of damage and that same system also hit Vanduser, Burton recalled.

"The National Weather Service keeps us well informed," Burton said. "They're pretty good about predicting storms."

Scott County also has weather spotters who are part of emergency management and fire departments. If something is predicted, then emergency management pages the spotters to watch the area, he explained.

Of course anyone who spots what they think is a tornado or funnel cloud, should call their local authorities, Burton said. But, if they do call, please know whether it's a funnel cloud or a tornado, he said.

"A funnel cloud is a tornado that hasn't touched the ground," Burton explained. "If it's a funnel cloud, we have a little bit more time to verify it, but if it's a tornado, the public really needs to know right away. So please be careful about what you say."

To better prepare for a tornado, Burton suggests everyone own a portable National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radio. "They're a lifesaver for people at night, and they're only like $20 and can be found at just about any store."

In the past, people didn't want the radios because they went off when any tornado was spotted in the state. Now, people can set the radio to a specific county, Burton pointed out.

If traveling and a tornado strikes, don't try to outrun it because it changes directions quickly, Burton said. Instead, get out of the vehicle and into a ditch.

"If you live in a mobile home, get in a ditch, too. I saw a bathtub from a destroyed mobile home lying in a field this week so get in a ditch or in a neighbor's basement or cellar," Burton urged.

If a tornado does strike, the first thing to do is notify local law enforcement, Burton suggested. If anyone is hurt, call 911, and if no one is hurt, a person should call their insurance adjuster.

"If you don't have insurance, then call 911 for American Red Cross assistance," Burton advised. "And sometimes, insured people need assistance by Red Cross because it can take a week for the adjusters to survey the damage."

Burton reminded that this is just the beginning of the tornado season.

"Tornado season usually starts around mid-April and lets up around mid-June, but they can occur any time throughout the year," Burton said. "Even though this is the season, you should be on the watch all the time."