Volume 34, Number 1, Summer 1994
The Branson Daily News of June 5 carried a story of a storm that ripped through northern Taney County, toppling several mobile homes and injuring a Eureka Springs man. Stone County also was hit, causing damage to storage buildings in the crossroads area north of Cape Fair. County Treasurer Vicki May, who lives on County Road AA north of Galena, reported that the road was impassible in places because of the number of large trees uprooted and blown across the road. The National Weather Service reported there were no confirmed reports of a tornado in the area but several residents differed. Jerry Dodson, manager of the Ozarks Shooters Sports Complex on Highway 65, estimated damage to the range at $12,000, but the greatest loss was about seventy trees downed by the wind.
Channel 3 in Springfield reported the storm, stating that strong winds cut a swath across Missouri 25 miles in width at times, from Cassville to St. Louis. The extent of the damage was unknown.
First hand accounts of events, along with legal records and newspaper articles, are the stuff of history. Perhaps my first hand account of the storm of June 4, 1993, and its aftermath in northern Taney County will add to the meager accounts from the news media.
The spring of 1993 was especially pleasant. The hard work of building a house and out-building, getting electricity and drilling a well, clearing brush, repairing roads, establishing flower beds, constructing rock steps, cutting paths for walking in the woods, and building fence had been accomplished. It was a long, cool and wet spring, lasting through May and into June. Having cleared and burned brush along the ridge on both sides of our road two years before, the redbud and dogwood trees were the prettiest ever and the glade in front of the house was covered with Indian paintbrush.
For the first time the large flower bed in front of the deck was overflowing with iris next to the stone wall and multicolored sedum and dianthus filled the bed. White daisies covered the flower bed under the rock ledge on the north, with butterfly plant, four-oclocks, marigolds and periwinkles just waiting their turn to bloom. Several other small flower beds and a strawberry patch were established for the first time.
The meadow had been cleared of small cedar trees in January and three hundred cedar logs were cut and stacked. In April, a barbed wire fence around our property was completed and a rail fence built on both sides of the entrance across the top of our ridge. In May, the meadow was covered with daisies and wild strawberries. Walking trails were cut on both sides of the ridge winding along fast tumbling streams and then back through the forest and up to the house.
Plans were underway to construct a log cabin on the site of the old home place in the meadow where my grandfather had built a house and barn around the turn of the century. Their spring had been cleaned out and a steady stream of water directed down a rock-filled gully, soon to be dammed up to form a small but deep pond adjacent to the meadow. The old wagon trail leading to the meadow had been improved and cedar logs cut and stacked in anticipation of work on the cabin during the summer.
It seemed that all was right with the world upon Hayes Ridge, located in northern Taney County. Our retirement home was built and our plan to establish a wild animal and bird sanctuary were well underway. But on June 4 a severe storm came roaring through these Ozarks hills and undid much of what had been accomplished during the past several years.
I was awake about 6:00 a.m., laying in bed wondering if the previous days good weather would hold long
enough for me to spend the morning clearing weeds and sprouts from the trails. It was not raining and there was no wind. But even as I got out of bed I heard the wind and rain coming and, from the bedroom window, saw trees uprooted and crashing to the ground. Before I reached the bathroom, I turned and saw through the living rooms sliding glass doors objects flying from the deck and trees being swept across the glade in front of the house. I heard and saw trees crashing to the ground all around the house, lightning flashed and the rain and hail smashed against the house. I even thought I saw the overhanging roof in front start to lift and I said to myself "there she goes."
I wasnt really afraid; I just thought that this might be it. I just stood there in the bathroom, for how long I dont know, wondering if anything would be left. Was the old A-frame cabin that was now attached to the newer house gone? Were the cars crushed? Was my cat alive or was he in his house when it was swept off the deck? The lightning and rain continued but the wind soon died. I flipped a light switch even though I knew the electricity would be off. I checked the telephone with the same result and then opened the door leading to the cabin and found to my surprise that it was still standing. Looking out of the cabin window to the east I saw nothing but downed trees. I went back to the bedroom window and saw the same scene to the north, but to the west most trees were still standing.
It then occurred to me that perhaps my neighbors Harry and Dixie Coleman might not have been as lucky as me. They had built a two-story log house high on a bald knob a mile northwest of our place. I again tried the phone but it was dead. I dressed, put on a rain coat and hat, and started out the back door. The rain was still heavy and lightning still flashed but seemed to be some distance away. The big trees just outside the back door were down, blocking the walkway up to the drive. I started up the road to the right, but downed trees forced me to strike out straight up the hill, past the old A-frame storage building that was still standing. I spotted my Nissan Pathfinder buried under tree limbs, but after reaching the top of the ridge saw that our van apparently was undamaged. However, the trailer and the pump house nearby were crushed under large tree trunks.
I couldnt believe the number of big trees blocking the road that wound along the top of the ridge. Fifty-year-old treesred oak, white oak, and walnutlay across the road, with huge balls of dirt clinging to the roots, creating gaping holes in the earth. It looked like a war zone for the 6/10 of a mile, all the way to the county line road. Hundreds of the largest trees on the ridge were down, crushing other trees, stacked upon one another to create a veritable jungle. I couldnt find my gate or the rail fence so recently completed.
Finally, I reached the county line road which was covered by trees in both directions. I climbed through trees on the roads headed toward my neighbors place. Suddenly, I heard the sound of a truck and looked through the trees to see my neighbor, Harry, driving toward me. He was on his way to my place to check on me. Fortunately, no trees were down on the road to his house because of logging that had been done on both sides of the road several years before. I climbed into his truck and we drove up his road toward his house. As we approached the crest of his bald knob, I saw that his one giant tree was down and then I saw what was left of his house. The roof and top floor were completely gone, as were both porches that had stretched across the front and back of the house. Debris was scattered for half a mile down through the trees along the side of his clearing. Harry and Dixie had escaped injury because their bedroom was on the ground floor.
As we entered their home, water was everywhere. With the roof gone the heavy rain had soaked everything. Harry and I decided we should check on the families at the nearby ranch and at the mouth of Gravelly Hollow. We drove back to the county line road and turned west but were soon stopped by fallen trees. But as we stopped we heard trucks coming from the west. Both of these families, the Grants and the Pierces, men, women and children, had come our direction to check on us. Neither of their low-lying homes had been damaged but a large tree had been blown over at the ranch, just missing the section of the house where the young boys were sleeping.
The Pierce family on Gravelly Hollow had moved their trucks across the creek to higher ground and then found the water too deep to get back across to
their house. In order to get to town and to get their children to school, we needed to clear the county line road.
Harrys phone was working so he was able to call the Taneycomo Golf Course, where he works, requesting help. Three men from the golf course came immediately to help and with two families living on the county line road, started clearing the road from the east. We started from the west, and after several hours of hard work, met the other crew. The road was still covered with tree limbs but cars and trucks could get through, Soon thereafter county road graders began pushing the remaining brush to the side of the road.
At noon we gathered back at the Colemans for sandwiches, chips and drinks thoughtfully provided by the Crums, one of the families that helped clear the road from the east. Most of the conversation focused on speculation as to the extent of damage in the area, plans for helping the Colemans cover their house for protection from the rain, and then later to replace their roof and porches.
My wife had been in Oklahoma City and she drove to Missouri as soon as she got word of the storm. It wasnt until late afternoon, after she arrived that we returned to our house making our way through the valley rather than following the ridge road that was tangled with fallen trees. It was a time-consuming and a difficult task to reach our house where we still had no electricity or telephone.
The next morning we inspected the damaged shingles on the west side of the house blown off; several trees laying on the barn which was moved off its foundation; a tree was down on our Nissan but fortunately very little damage was done; the pump house was completely destroyed; the trailer was buried under a tree; hundreds of our largest trees were down, some with tops twisted off and some uprooted. Even with help from our neighbors, it took three days to clear a path wide enough for a car to pass, but it would take months, and possibly years, to repair the damage done by the storm.
With help from neighbors and relatives, the Colemans replaced their roof on a single weekend after all materials were obtained. They decided they could do without the upstairs floor, with the possibility of expanding the lower floor sometime in the future.
For the next four months I spent most of my time repairing storm damage. It did not take long to reshingle the house, rebuild the pump house, move the barn back on its foundation and repair damage to the roof. It did, however, take a long time to clear away the trees from around the house and along the road, and to repair fences.
Because of the volume of trees on the ground, I contacted the Conservation Office in Branson, requesting assistance to locate a logger to harvest the 500 plus large trees down on my 150 acres. With their help and a lot of luck I located a logger, Fred Keathley, who agreed to log my place. He also contacted the Forestry Department and obtained permission to log an area in the Mark Twain National Forest just north of our place where thousands of trees are down. He has until January 1, 1995, to complete the work there.
While visiting with a Forestry Department em-
ployee, I asked him if he knew how many trees were down in other parts of the state. He knew of damage in the Cassville area and this area, but nothing further east. He suggested I check with the coordinating office at Willow Springs. I drove up through Bradleyville and Brown Branch and saw some damage, before driving north to Hwy. 60 and on to Willow Springs. I was able to visit with the Forestry Department employee responsible for logging from Cassville east to Willow Springs. We reviewed maps where specific hard hit areas had been identified and his estimates of how much timber was down. Plans were underway to invite loggers to bid on particular sections. He pointed out that they have not progressed very far in surveying the entire area with potential damage. Millions of board feet will be harvested as a result of this storm.
Another major chore for me in the year ahead will be to cut and haul the cedar that is down. It is scattered throughout our place. It is hard to reach, hard to trim and cut, and even harder to carry out of the woods. Many of these trees are two and three feet in diameter and twenty to thirty feet tall. It takes two strong men to carry and load these 46-inch sections on to a truck or trailer.
About ten years ago, my son and I planted 2,500 pine trees along both sides of the ridge where we lost most of our large trees. Very few of these trees had shown themselves and I assumed most were dead. Since June 1993, however, several hundred of these pines have begun to grow, some are two to three feet high while most are 8 to 12 inches high. I ordered several hundred more pine and walnut trees to plant in February and March 1994. Hopefully Hayes Ridge will not look bare for very long and will once again become a sanctuary for the wildlife of this Ozark mountain area.
Copyright Ó White River Valley Historical Quarterly
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