Blunt promises help for tornado victims

Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Anakin Wethington, 4, skated-boarded in his great-grandmother's basement while Gov. Matt Blunt held a news conference in Crosstown, Mo., on Tuesday. Blunt took an aerial tour of storm-damaged areas in Crosstown Tuesday morning, then landed to speak with some of the residents. (Diane L. Wilson)

CROSSTOWN, Mo. -- The tree line in Crosstown painted a bleak picture across a blue sky on Tuesday as Gov. Matt Blunt toured the hardest hit area from last Friday's tornado.

The beautiful scenery in the small Perry County town was a reason Debra and Tom Schultz bought Debra's parent's home off Route C. Hundreds of trees surrounded the couple's home, which they had lived in for more than 20 years.

On Tuesday, the couple's 200-year-old home was bulldozed into a pile of debris, waiting to be burned. Huge trees surrounding their home, and throughout Crosstown, were broken in half -- outlining the path of the devastating tornado.

"It was a very peaceful area. Well, until the storm came," Schultz said.

The National Weather Service in Paducah, Ky., reclassified Friday's tornado from an F3 to an F4, with peak winds of 210 mph in Perry County. It was the strongest September tornado on record.

Blunt got an overhead view of Crosstown from a helicopter Tuesday morning. During his visit with several residents, Blunt assured them the state will do everything it can to assist Crosstown.

"This is very devastating," Blunt said. "Mother Nature often throws its worst at us but brings out the best in Missourians."

The State Emergency Management Agency and Federal Emergency Management Agency are preparing damage assessments. Once the assessments are complete, Blunt plans to ask for federal assistance.

"We're never going to be able to replace the memories and the many things that have been destroyed from the storm, we wouldn't pretend to. But we want to do everything we can to help the community get back on its feet," Blunt said.

The Schultzs said they appreciated Blunt's visit.

"He can actually see firsthand what we're going through. The news just doesn't show what actually went on here," said Tom Schultz, who stood in front of his destroyed home.

Everything the Schultz couple could salvage from their home sat under a blue tarp on their property. All they could save was a few pieces of furniture, some clothes and the refrigerator.

Tom Schultz found the remote control to his DVD player, but he isn't sure where the player is or if it even works.

The couple had no insurance on their home and isn't sure what they will do. Their first goal is to find a place to live -- right now they're staying at the Super 8 Motel in Perryville.

Perry County Associate Commissioner Patrick Naeger said the county plans to work with residents on temporary housing issues while they're rebuilding.

The American Red Cross has provided hotel rooms for 22 families who have no place to stay. The remainder of the Crosstown residents are staying with friends or family.

"The long-term goal is to figure out housing issues. These folks can't stay in hotels or with family for several months," Naeger said.

Despite the widespread devastation, Perry County was prepared to respond to the Crosstown tornado. Six months ago, an F3 tornado destroyed a rural section of the county near St. Mary.

"We definitely had good practice in March. Response in Crosstown has been at a real fast pace, much faster than at St. Mary," Naeger said.

In the wake of the storms, Attorney General Jay Nixon warns residents of con-artists that may target homeowners in tornado-hit areas.

Consumers should be suspicious of workers that drive unmarked vehicles, solicit business door-to-door, ask for full payment in advance and have no identification, Nixon said. Home repair is one of the top complaint categories the attorney general's office receives.

Crosstown will continue to receive aid from local, state and federal organizations. Members of AmeriCorps are in Crosstown helping with cleanup. Students from Saxony Lutheran High School will travel to assist the Perry County town today.

The Southeast chapter of the Red Cross will continue to serve residents at the Salem Lutheran School in Farrar on Tuesday. Anyone needing assistance can contact the Red Cross at (573) 335-9471.

jfreeze@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 246

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