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Sunday, Dec. 21, 2014

Governor tours disaster area

Thursday, January 29, 2009

(Photo)
Gov. Jay Nixon listens to a Red Cross shelter worker.
SIKESTON -- Gov. Jay Nixon got to see the damage to Sikeston and the surrounding area firsthand today - as well as talk to those affected by the widespread power outages caused by Tuesday and Wednesday's storms.

The governor was in town for a brief visit on Thursday. When he arrived in town, he was immediately taken to the Sikeston DPS headquarters, to be briefed on the situation and response.

Later, Nixon made a short stop at the Sikeston Field House, which is being utilized as a warming station for those without power.

(Photo)
Gov. Jay Nixon speaks to a resident who is staying at the Sikeston Field House.
"Everybody is really pulling together," said Dennis Ziegenhorn, Scott County commissioner, as he shook the governor's hand when Nixon arrived at the shelter.

During the brief visit, Nixon spoked with a few of those utilizing the warming shelter and also got a briefing from Sherri Bethold, shelter supervisor with the Red Cross.

As Nixon passed two women walking out the door, he patted their shoulders and cautioned "be careful out there." He asked others how long they had been at the shelter and about their situations.

He did not address the media during his visit.

Mayor Mike Marshall said he had "a pretty good two minute talk with the governor."

More than anything, Marshall said the winter storm has been a good test for earthquake response, with a lot of the same issues - downed power lines, limbs down and widespread loss of electricity. With Sikeston being located so closely to the New Madrid fault line, an earthquake is a real - and pressing - threat.

"And we've got to get a lot more practice and preparation in before we're ready for that," said Marshall, noting an earthquake will likely result in more injuries due to falling structures. "We are not ready for an earthquake by a longshot and we better get ready."

He and Councilman Michael Bohannon spent much of the day Wednesday and Thursday driving around town to locate and pick up people in need of shelter. "Some we just saw out on the streets," he said.

He said more volunteers are needed to do that now and in future emergencies. There will also need to be more coordination to provide warm meals for those in the shelters.

"We're better than this," said Marshall.

He said he will make it a point to urge City Council members to plan for future disasters, even after his term as mayor ends later this year.

Department of Public Safety Director Drew Juden said his visit with the Nixon went "really well.

"The Governor told us anything we needed, all we have to do is ask for it and we will receive it," Juden said.

The DPS chief said that Nixon stated he has spoken with President Barack Obama who told him FEMA assistance would be available soon.

"With almost 100,000 families without power and six fatalities related to the winter storm, my primary concern is the safety of Missourians," Nixon said in an earlier statement to the press. "I have asked President Obama to approve my request as quickly as possible so Missouri can secure needed federal resources to help counties protect their citizens.

"In order to get federal assistance for our impacted counties, Missouri must meet all of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) requirements for federal disaster assistance," Nixon said. "We will begin conducting Joint Damage Assessments in the affected counties as soon as possible."

Also as part of the state's effort to assist area residents, the Governor has called out the National Guard. The Guard's missions include liaison officers in local emergency operations center, emergency route clearance, power generation, and door-to-door visits in Southern and Southeast Missouri. More than 10 other state agencies also are providing services to affected communities, as a result of Nixon activating the Missouri State Emergency Operations Plan on Jan. 26.

Like the state, Juden said his department's No. 1 concern is the safety of local citizens and second on their priority list is property issues. Overall, he said, considering the circumstances things are going well.

"(Recovery) is not as quick as we would like it but that is just part of being in a disaster," Juden said.