|Tuesday, May 12, 2009|
Park staff at Ozark National Scenic Riverways have cleared hundreds of trees from park roads and opened pathways for people to travel in Shannon, Dent, and Texas counties following the passage of a severe storm. At approximately 9 a.m. on Friday, May 8th, the area was struck by a storm with driving rain and winds gusting from 70 to 90 mph that knocked down thousands of trees throughout the park. By 9:15 a.m., park staff were out clearing roads, using chainsaws and whatever heavy equipment was needed to ensure the safety of park staff and visitors. Through a memorandum of understanding with local counties, park employees cleared emergency lanes on state highways, county highways, and park roads in order to gain access to park areas. All major park points on the river were accessed by Saturday evening, which was the end of the second day of searching for stranded or injured visitors. Park staff worked in conjunction with the Missouri Department of Conservation, the Missouri Department of Transportation, and local road authorities. The park also assisted the community of Eminence, which had major damage and no power, by providing NPS generators to keep their sheriffâs office and dispatch center open and their radio repeaters working while the county generator was repaired and power lines replaced. There were no immediate injuries, but a number of park visitors and local residents needed to be located and rescued. Due to the amount of area to be searched and roads cleared of downed trees, the park operated under the incident command system, with chief ranger Greg Moss serving as incident commander. All park visitors and local residents have been contacted and evacuated, but there will be weeks of parkwide clean-up of the downed trees and power lines.