Severe Storm Hits Ozark National Scenic Riverways

tree blocking road

Just one of many large trees that had to be removed from roads at Ozark Riverways. NPS photo.

A severe storm stuck Ozark National Scenic Riverways last Friday, knocking down thousands of trees, blocking roads and stranding visitors throughout the area.

The storm hit about 9 a.m. on May 8, 2009 with driving rain and winds gusting from 70 to 90 mph. According to information from the park,

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.

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 sheriff’s 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.