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Sunday, Dec. 21, 2014

Weather made '08 headlines

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

SIKESTON -- Morning lows on Monday and Tuesday were the lowest in almost two years. But the frigid temperatures weren't the only weather headlines this year.

"We had the ice storm in February, the flooding in March and the remnant from Ike," said Joel Evans, emergency management director in Scott County. "Any one of those would have been a unique year, but all of them together gives you a really unique year."

The National Weather Service in Paducah, Ky., which covers southeast Missouri, recorded overnight lows of 7 degrees Monday and Tuesday mornings, with temperatures on Monday topping out at 22 degrees, according to Robin Smith, a meteorologist there. Information was not available in the NWS database regarding the last time temperatures were that low in Sikeston, but it was February 2007 in Cape Girardeau.

"But there's nothing out of the ordinary with it at all," Smith said of the cold temperatures. "Of course, people are thinking that it's unusual for this late in December, but that's not the case -- it's really quite typical."

In fact, he said all those weather occurrences that hit the area are quite normal in regards to weather patterns.

"The flooding was due to just massive rain," he said. "But really, that was nothing unusual."

But it created a lot of problems for local entities to clean up. "It continued to grow in magnitude over a period of time," said Evans. "It required multiple bridge replacements, multiple culvert replacements and massive debris cleanup."

Most all of the county roads were impacted in some way by the flood, and all of the gravel roads required some degree of resurfacing, Evans continued.

Public and individual assistance was granted to Scott, New Madrid and Mississippi counties as a result of the March flooding and February ice storms through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Following the path of destruction left by remnants of Hurricane Ike, the three counties received a declaration for public assistance.

But each experience also provided a lot of learning and on-the-job training for officials who helped to weather the storms. "We now know a little better what to look for and what areas to predict damage," he said. "With these experiences, we will be better able to prepare for the next disaster."

As a result of the disasters, county commissioners have approved purchases and are looking into more that will make better, more efficient use of the personnel and materials the county does have, said Evans. "And we're right now doing the footwork for a grant to improve our emergency operations center," he said. The grant is for up to $250,000.

Emergency shelters were set up while there was widespread power outages during the flooding and ice storms, said Evans. He is now working with the Red Cross to identify additional shelter areas in the county so residents will know where to go in future disasters,

The county also received Homeland Security supplies over the summer. Cots, blankets and supplies for about 300 are stored in a trailer, all part of the grant.

Evans said a helpful tool for him, as well as residents, is FEMA's "Are you ready" handbook, available online at www.fema.gov/areyouready/. "It's a really good document for you to prepare your home and your family for dealing with disaster," he said.

In his first year as emergency management director, Evans said he learned quite a bit on the job. However, he's looking forward to using his efforts elsewhere -- other than preparing for and cleaning up disasters, then applying for assistance -- in the coming year. "I'd like to focus on some training," he said.

He also commended the community for coming together to help one another during the disasters.

"During the flooding, volunteers from all of the fire departments helped with the sandbagging efforts, as well as many others," he said. "And I think that, in a major disaster, that work ethic and care for your neighbor will be key in getting through."