May 15, 2003
Severe Storms Strike Region
No fewer than five tornadoes touched down in the Tri-state area Saturday, March 10, including one twister that hit Scotland County near the Rutledge area. The funnel cloud traveled east until eventually going back into the sky near Rainbow Bridge.
"We got called into service a little after 5:00 p.m.," said Scotland County sheriff's deputy Jason Moss, a trained storm spotter. "In a little over an hour we spotted half a dozen funnel clouds as well as two actual tornadoes in Scotland County."
Moss took some stirring videotape of a funnel cloud that touched down between Rutledge and Gorin traveling along the highway before eventually moving back into the sky near Rainbow Bridge.
This funnel cloud was photographed by storm spotters in Scotland County during the outbreak of severe weather May 10. A total of six funnel clouds and two tornadoes were verified in Scotland County that night. (Photo by Jason Moss.)
"There was an amazing amount of tornadic activity that evening," Moss said. " We were sitting there watching no fewer than three funnel clouds taking shape when I just happened to look back over my left shoulder to see another tornado forming. That's the golden rule of storm watching, don't forget to look behind you every once in awhile to make sure nothing is sneaking up on you."
The National Weather Service in St. Louis reported that tornadoes were spotted in six Missouri counties, Lewis, Marion, Shelby, Knox, Clark and Scotland as well as in Adams County in Illinois.
It proved to be a busy night for local emergency service workers as local firemen and ambulance service workers joined with law enforcement to serve as spotters after the National Weather Service released its first tornado watch for the region.
A second tornado watch was issued for the region at approximately 8:15 p.m. and included an unconfirmed sighting of a funnel cloud once again in the south part of the county.
But the eventful evening of weather left Scotland County unharmed. Unfortunately the same could not be said less than 60 miles away where the tornadoes hit the ground in Canton. That was just the start, as what was believed to be three funnel clouds together started their path of destruction that spread across Illinois for some four hours, covering more than 130 miles and causing damage in some 20 towns in the tornadoes paths. Remarkably there were no fatalities.
The devastation began in Canton at about 6:30 p.m. when the tornado hit the southwest end of town heading across the region in a northeast direction.
Canton took the bulk of the damage when tornadoes struck northeast Missouri May 10. Emergency service workers from Scotland County responded to the town in Lewis County to assist in the search and rescue efforts. Remarkably there were no fatalities. (Photo by Jason Moss.)
The storm struck the new County Market store just off Highway 61 and totally destroyed the store. Two 18-wheeler tractor trailers were overturned on the highway as the tornado descended from the sky and began its destruction. The storm continued on damaging several other stores in the new shopping center as well as the recently built Comfort Inn hotel.
"It was quite a sight," said Moss, who along with fellow sheriff's deputy Bryan Whitney, was dispatched to Canton to aid in the emergency. "They had a staging area set up in the parking lot of the shopping center right in front of what used to be the grocery store."
Moss, who also serves as the director of the Scotland County Ambulance Service, stated in addition to the local law officers, one Scotland County ambulance along with four ambulance service members were dispatched to the scene and actually transported two patients from the storm to Blessing Hospital in Quincy, IL.
But the storm damage didn't end at the shopping center on Highway 61. The next stop was the Culver Stockton College campus where the school's gymnasium, Joe Charles Fieldhouse was also totally destroyed. Several other buildings on the campus were damaged.
Several downtown homes as well as more than 30 mobile homes in a trailer park could not escape the wrath of the storm. Emergency workers had to use thermal imaging devices to search as many as 30 mobile homes that were destroyed or overturned by the storm.
The funnel clouds crossed the Mississippi River and continued the demolition basically leveling the small town of Lima, IL.
EMS workers from neighboring communities were called up to assist in Canton. Several law enforcement agencies and ambulance service joined the EMS workers from Scotland County who responded to the scene.
The entire Clark County Fire Department and Rescue squad was dispatched to the region. Scotland County sent a fire truck and several volunteers to Kahoka to cover the community in case of an emergency.
The officers from the sheriff's department remained in Canton for a 12-hour shift, from 7:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. to patrol portions of the town.
Moss stated the Lewis County officials divided the town into several sectors and placed officers in each sector to maintain police service to the region.
May has definitely started with a bang as the National Weather Service has recorded no fewer than 395 tornadoes in the first 11 days of the month. Although there were no fatalities in Saturday's storms in the region, a total of 44 deaths have been attributed to the storms across the United States in May.
NOAA spokesman Joe Shaffer issued a statement indicating the recent outbreak has been the worst tornado numbers on record since the organization began tracking such statistics back in 1950.
On Monday, May 13, U.S. Congressman Kenny Hulshof (R-MO) asked President Bush to provide federal disaster assistance for the counties in northeast Missouri impacted by the powerful storms and tornadoes that hit the region on May 10.
"My thoughts and prayers go out to those who have been harmed by this natural disaster. We must do everything we can to help our communities in northeast Missouri in their time of need. My office stands ready to work with federal, state and local officials to assist in recovery efforts," said Hulshof.
To receive a federal disaster declaration, the Governor must first request the designation for counties affected by the natural disaster. Once a formal declaration is issued by the President, a variety of assistance can be made available to affected counties. For example, grants, loans as well as temporary housing and unemployment assistance might be available to victims. Public assistance, such as funding to repair or replace public facilities and infrastructure, is also provided.
"We toured the area yesterday to survey the damage with State Emergency Management Agency officials. The houses and buildings that were in the path of this tornado are just devastated. It's amazing that there weren't more injuries--which we're grateful for. Right now, we're worried that we're running out of generators and we don't have enough hand-held radios for communications. There are things we need to pay for now that we don't have the funds for, but it has to be done. So we will need all the state and federal aid we can get," said Nancy Goehl, Lewis County Presiding Commissioner.
Federal Emergency Manage-ment Agency officials were expected to be in the area May 13 to assess damage.