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Emerson tours Diehlstadt tornado damage
DIEHLSTADT, Mo. -- A week after a deadly tornado swept through Diehlstadt, its residents continue to pick up the pieces.
On Monday, U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson along with Scott County Sheriff Rick Walter toured the community to survey the damage from the nighttime June 4 tornado that killed three residents: Loy G. Miller, 70; and two of his sons, Jasper L. Miller, 49; and Randy G. Miller, 47.
"It's so heartbreaking," Emerson said as she looked over the property where Loy Miller's mobile home was struck by the tornado and is now a vacant lot. " ... It's sad -- and scary."
The EF-2 tornado reached about 115 miles per hour and tore roofs off homes and barns, turned over an irrigation pivot, blew off a church steeple and downed several tree limbs. Residents were without electricity for nearly 24 hours.
"We need sirens," Emerson said after touring the community. "And I'm going to try to work to get that alert system for these residents."
Emerson said she plans to talk to State Emergency Management Agency officials to see how much damage there is in the community as some residents have insurance and some do not. Any kind of assistance she can get to help Diehlstadt residents, she will, the U.S. representative said.
"The recovery process is long, and it requires the diligence and attention of local, state and federal authorities to help the community recover from this event," Emerson said. "These are important times when we all pull together and help one another back on our feet. I will support every request by the state and the local community for assistance."
Diehlstadt resident Tammy Bowles said she hopes the community and its residents will receive state and/or federal assistance, too.
"We're a small community. We're not considered a town so it's hard for us to get any kind of assistance," Bowles said.
Bowles said 90 percent of the shingles were ripped off her home's roof, and part of the roof collapsed from the strong winds and rain. Fortunately, she said her family has insurance.
Bowles said she also thinks warning sirens for Diehlstadt are a great idea.
"If we had alarms in place, maybe it will save lives," Bowles said
Bowles said she and her family were unaware a tornado warning was issued in their community.
"I was on the computer and could hear the wind, and the house started vibrating," Bowles recalled.
Bowles said she, her husband and their 13-year-old daughter took cover in the hallway of their home until it passed.
"You want to be able to help because it hurts you when we see these folks sifting through the debris," Emerson said. "These types of things always bring a community together. It always bring out of the best in everybody."
Walter estimated 52 residences experienced some type of damage following the tornado. The sheriff estimated about 25 percent of those residents didn't have insurance.
"But that didn't slow them down," Walter said.
People in Diehlstadt were quick to pick up debris and place tarps over their roofs immediately following the tornado, the sheriff said.
On Monday -- six days after the tornado and storm -- blue tarps remained on the rooftops of many homes. Tree limbs were neatly stacked into piles, awaiting removal by Scott County employees, who are assisting with debris removal.
"The residents chopped up and transported tree limbs (to a drop-off point in the community)," Scott County Emergency Management Director Tom Beardslee said, adding county employees made 177 trips with four dump trucks and 500 man hours of labor.
Beardslee said the Long-term Disaster Recovery Committee is still taking names of those who need assistance repairing damage to their homes. The committee is comprised of representatives from Scott, Stoddard, Cape and Bollinger counties.
"If someone doesn't have insurance or funds to repair damage, they may be eligible for assistance through the long-term recovery committee," Beardslee said.
Counseling is also available through Bootheel Counseling Services, or residents can contact their church pastor for the information, Beardslee said.
"It's amazing how God works," said Joseph "Jody" Miller of Jacksonville, N.C., while taking a break from cleaning up the debris at his father's residence. Miller's father and two brothers were killed in the tornado.
Miller's wife, Cindy Miller, said on Monday morning their family is coping with losing their three family members.
"It's a tragedy, but there have been blessings come out of it," she said. "A lot of people have returned to Christ. It was a huge awakening and a wake-up call for a lot of people."
No one knows what the next day will bring, she added.
Bowles is also trying to remain positive. Also on Monday, workers began to repair the roof of her home.
"It's a rough time for everybody," Bowles said. "But we're gonna make it."