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Thursday May 26, 2011 - Continuous tornado coverage - KOAM TV 7

Thursday May 26

Posted: Updated: May 26, 2011 07:18 AM CDT

Summary

A list of 232 people still unaccounted for is released by officials - and the first person listed says "get me off that thing".

Desperate to find their loved ones, residents turn to Facebook, Twitter and a radio station group who abandoned their music formats for 24/7 tornado coverage.

8:22am Update

JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) — Mike Hare has scoured the ravaged neighborhood where his 16-year-old son Lantz was seen last. He's called hospitals from Dallas to Kansas City and taken dozens of calls offering advice, prayers and hopeful tips.

None of the calls came from Lantz. None offered any hope he might still be alive.

Hare has been looking for his son since Sunday, when much of the southwest Missouri city of Joplin was leveled by the deadliest single tornado since the National Weather Service started keeping records.

"We know he's hurt somewhere," Hare said Wednesday, his voice breaking. "We just can't sit and keep calling. You've got to be moving."

Hare is among an increasingly desperate group of people in Joplin pleading for help in tracking down one of the dwindling number of people still missing in the wake of Sunday's storm. They're scrawling signs in wreckage, calling in by the hundreds to local radio stations and posting on the Internet. They are inspiring city officials to continue search and rescue efforts: there is no talk yet of recovery.

Officials planned to release a list Thursday morning of people still considered missing.

"I am hopeful," Joplin Fire Chief Mitch Randles said. "We've had stories from earthquakes and tsunamis and other disasters of people being found two or three weeks later, and we are hopeful we'll have a story like that to tell."

Randles and others leading the search effort say it's impossible to know exactly how many people are truly missing, since many may have simply left the area without getting in touch with their families. They believe most will be OK.

Amid that confusion, away from formal grid searches in the debris fields, children are looking for their parents and friends are searching for neighbors in any way they can.

With erratic cell phone service throughout Joplin and travel hindered by damaged cars and blocked streets, many residents have turned to local radio stations as a hub of information, sifting through around-the-clock reports of missing family members.

The Zimmer Radio Group, which operates seven radio stations in Joplin, abandoned its various music formats for 24-hour tornado coverage starting late Sunday afternoon. Newscaster Chad Elliot, whose home was destroyed, slept in his office when he wasn't on the air. His dog Rusty barked loudly behind a closed door.

"I thought we were going to do a normal severe weather broadcast," he said. "Obviously, that's not the case."

Calls flowed in — hundreds of them — from people looking for displaced loved ones, or calling in to say they were OK. By Wednesday, reports of missing friends and relatives were decreasing, replaced by updates of successful, tearful reunions.

"Folks wondering about Larry Allen, who was living near the Stained Glass Theater, he is fine," an announcer said Wednesday afternoon. "He's staying with friends."

Another listener reported, "I want everyone to know that Alice DuBois, 94 years old, is alive and well. We hadn't heard from her until yesterday afternoon. We thank everyone for their thoughts and prayers."

Pleas were rampant on social networks.

"This little boy was taken to Memorial Hall," one poster wrote next to a picture posted on KRGZ-FM's Facebook page. "His name is David and all he know's is that his mother's name is Crystal and his brother is Zachary. He was airlifted to Tulsa. Please help find his mom."

Other cries for help were low-tech: A tornado-battered pickup truck was spray-painted with the message, "Looking 4 Zachary Williams Age 12," along with a phone number.

At the Red Cross shelter at Missouri Southern State University, a steady stream of people visited a table where Bill Benson took down the names of people for a "safe and well" database. Some people entered their names; others hoped to find the name of their loved ones in the database.

Benson has seen parents looking for missing children, saying "we had one where a 17-month-old infant was lost." He contacted police and had not heard if the child was found. But more people have come to Benson searching for seniors — more than 100 were listed as missing Wednesday.

At Freeman Hospital, Karen Mitchell waited Wednesday hoping for word on her missing son, Robert Bateson, or her grandson, Abe Khoury. Khoury was found and taken to Freeman, where he was in critical condition. But Mitchell and her family continued to search for Bateson.

When she arrived in Joplin on Tuesday, Mitchell walked through the wreckage of her son's apartment building. She recognized his mattress sitting in a pile. Her family continued to post Bateson's information online. She prayed for a miracle.

"I am waiting on God to tell me where he's at," she said. "God is going to take him to me."

Kathy Watson, a marketing team member and front desk volunteer at Freeman, said the hospital was deluged with calls and visits from searchers, sometimes in vain.

"You want to be able to say, 'Not only do we have your loved one, but they're fine,' but you can't say that," Watson said.

The evening of the tornado, Lantz Hare was driving with a friend who said the two tried to take cover in the parking lot of a grocery store. The tornado shattered the windows and crumpled the car, and Mike Hare found Lantz's backpack in the wreckage.

He said he would keep searching until he found his son, dead or alive.

"If you look at the ground, life will pass you by," he said. "I won't let life pass me by."

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

11:53am Update

A Business Recovery Center has been opened in Joplin to provide key financial services to businesses impacted by the tornado, several area business-related organizations have announced.

The center is a creation of the U. S. Small Business Administration (SBA), Missouri Southern State University Small Business and Technology Development Center and the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce.

"Due to the severe property damage and economic loss this tornado inflicted on businesses in Joplin, we want to provide every available service to help get businesses back on their feet," said SBA's Kansas City Regional Administrator Pat Brown-Dixon. "This center will provide a single one-stop location for business owners to access a variety of specialized help," she added.

The Business Recovery Center opened today at 9 a.m., and is located at the Newman Innovation Center, adjacent to the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce, 320 E. 4th Street, Joplin, MO 64801

For assistance, business owners can seek help at the location on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesdays 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturdays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

According to Brown-Dixon, SBA customer service representatives will be available to meet individually with business owners to explain how a low interest SBA disaster loan can help finance their recovery.

"They will issue loan applications, answer questions about SBA's disaster loan program, explain the application process, help each individual complete their application and close their approved loans," she said. "You don't need to wait on your insurance to settle or a contractor's estimate before seeking SBA financial assistance."

Consultants will offer counseling to help business owners re-establish their operations and plan for their future as well as reconstruct lost business records and offer assistance on updating or rewriting business plans.

For small businesses and most private, non-profit organizations of any size, SBA offers Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs) to help meet working capital needs caused by the disaster. EIDL assistance is available regardless of whether the business suffered any property damage.

The SBA also makes low interest disaster loans to homeowners and renters who sustained damage from the disaster.

Disaster loan information and application forms are also available from SBA's Customer Service Center by calling SBA toll-free at (800) 659-2955, emailing disastercustomerservice@sba.gov, or visiting SBA's Web site at www.sba.gov/services/disasterassistance.

The filing deadline to return applications for property damage is July 8, 2011. The deadline to return economic injury applications is February 9, 2012.

For more information, visit SBA's Web site at www.sba.gov/services/disasterassistance.

SBA Field Operations Center - West, P.O. Box 419004, Sacramento, CA 95841

12:01pm Update

Two men are arrested for stealing copper wire and scrap metal from homes destroyed by Sunday's tornado.

Wednesday afternoon Jasper County sheriff's deputies were called to 20th and Central City Road after a citizen witnessed two men loading copper wire and scrap metal into a pickup from a storage unit.

Deputies questioned the two men and learned they had come from Columbia, Missouri - rented a storage unit for one day - and stole the wire and metal overnight.

Scott A. Foreman, 22 of Centralia, MO, and Cory A. Smith, 19 of Pratt, KS., were arrested and taken to the Jasper County Detention Center.

Charges are pending at this time.

12:06pm Update

A company that owns and operates a feed phosphate operation in Joplin will donate $500,000 to the Greater Ozarks Chapter of the American Red Cross to support relief efforts in Joplin.

"This natural disaster hits close to home," PotashCorp of Saskatchewan Inc. President and CEO Bill Doyle said in a news release issued by the Greater Ozark Chapter of the American Red Cross.  "In the wake of the devastation, our thoughts and prayers are with our neighbors in Joplin and we hope that our contribution helps bring comfort at this difficult time."

The company will also match dollar-for-dollar contributions made by its employees.

"We are so grateful for this donation.  It will make a huge difference in the recovery of those devastated by the tornado.  In the midst of such pain, suffering and loss, it is uplifting to see a company step forward to do all they can to alleviate that pain," said Debi Meeds, Regional CEO of the Greater Ozarks Chapter of the American Red Cross.

Read the complete news release

12:14pm Update

A $200,000 donation is on its way to help in the tornado relief efforts from Bank of America.  $100,000 of this will be donated directly to the American Red Cross.

"As the victims of this tragedy begin to rebuild their lives, they will need assistance from individuals and organizations from across the country to address their immediate and long-term needs," said Kerry Sullivan, president, Bank of America Charitable Foundation in a news release. "We extend our heartfelt sympathies to the families impacted by this disaster."

The Bank of America Charitable Foundation will also match employee pledges through the bank's Matching Gifts program and will not limit its overall relief donation.

Read the complete news release

1:47pm update

An animal welfare group has set up shelter for lost pets in Joplin.  Teams are out searching for lost and injured pets in the city.

They say for some survivors pets are the only thing they have left. The facility is located at 140 Emperor Lane next to the Joplin Humane Society.

It will be open daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

1:55pm Update

Four days after a deadly tornado rips through Joplin 232 people are still unaccounted for.

Missouri officials are urging survivors to check in.

At a news conference this morning authorities gave the latest details from Sunday's devastating EF-5 tornado.

The storm killed at least 125 people, and a number of the deceased are still unidentified and could be part of the missing total.

A list of the missing people has now been released.

Officials said previously they believe people who are unaccounted for aren't necessarily dead or trapped in debris.  They say many are probably safe and but failed to tell friends and family where they are.

Cell phone service in Joplin remains spotty.

The city was hit by the deadliest single tornado in the U.S. since the National Weather Service started keeping records.

It killed at least 125 people and the estimated number of injured has climbed to more than 900.

Survivors are urged to check in according to Missouri Department of Public Safety Deputy Director Andrea Spillars.

Found person line is 417-895-6868.

Missing person line is 417-659-5464.

2:00pm update

JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) - The first person on the missing list from the Joplin tornado is very much alive.

The Associated Press found 75-year-old Sally Adams sitting on a wooden chair and cuddling her pet cat Thursday. When AP told Adams she was listed as missing, she laughed and said "Get me off of there!"

Neighbors rescued Adams on Sunday after the storm destroyed her house and took her to a friend's home.

Her relatives had called a hot line and posted Facebook messages saying Adams was missing. Adams says she lost her cell phone in the storm and had no way to reassure family.

Her son Bill Adams says he told authorities his mother was alive after he learned she was safe, yet she remained on their unaccounted-for list at midday Thursday.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

2:07pm Update

Missouri Senator Roy Blunt is urging the federal government to help foot the bill for cleanup costs.

The government typically covers 75% of the costs of responding to disasters, with state and local governments picking up the rest.

However, the federal government is paying 90% of the tab for cleanup costs for the deadly tornadoes that hit Alabama in April.

Blunt says he has asked the Homeland Security secretary to allow the federal government to pay 100% of the costs of responding to the Joplin tornado.

2:12pm Update

The lights are back on for many Empire Electric customers, but thousands are still without service.

Today, Empire District Electric says roughly 11,500 residents are in the dark.

However, about 10,000 of those customers are within the tornado-devastated area, and a substantial number will not be able to accept service for the foreseeable future.

Power crews caution residents to be careful.

Cable One is also restoring service to some of its customers.

The company says 20 percent of Joplin customers have had service restored and all areas south of 32nd Street should be up and running later tonight.

Officials say crews are still working on Range Line and 15th.

They say the rebuilding of power poles and fiber there is essential to reconnect the north side of town.

2:17pm Update

The annual Joplin festival, Boomtown Days, has been postponed.

Organizers say it's important for the community to focus on recovery and rebuilding.

No new dates have been set for the 2011 event.

Boomtown Days officials are asking people interested in the festival to not contact the City of Joplin, Chamber of Commerce or the Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Further updates on Boomtown Days can be found on their Facebook page www.facebook.com/BoomtownDays, and their website http://boomtowndays.com/content/.

3:45pm Update

by Lisa Olliges

The record room of the Sacred Rose Health Care is in the center of a mound of rubble.

Searching now for current patient's records, some of those are not found anywhere else. Other doctors, hospitals, and stuff have lost those records also, so they are very important to us and our patients for continuity of care.

For Sacred Rose Home Health Care, the search is on for these colored binders. The demographic stuff is on computer. These held information from nurses and their notes, unfortunately. What they're finding is nothing inside.

Dr. Mike Knapps salvaged 7 truckloads of medications, equipment and charts at his office.

"We were able to salvage some but in the end, there's so much water damage we probably won't get much out of them. We'll probably just be working from scratch." - Dr. Knapp

Dr. Knapp says some information he can get from St. John's and Freeman hospitals where records are stored electronically. He's had other doctors who's offices weren't affected offer to see his patients and he says everyone can call hospital switchboards to get in touch. He's been touched by the calls coming in now.

"That's been the nicest thing ever. The patients aren't calling for themselves just to find out if we're okay. That's been the neatest thing of this." - Dr. Knapp

3:48pm Update

A Missouri politician visits the emergency operations center in Joplin.

Attorney General Chris Koster toured the command center and the areas damaged by the tornado.

He wants Joplin residents to be aware of price gouging and scams.

Koster was near ground zero after 9-11 and says prices of gas, food, and other necessities were raised dangerously high.

He says residents in Joplin should be aware of this and report it to the Attorney General's office.

6:35pm Update

All over Joplin businesses are trying to keep doors open and keep people employed despite uncertainty.

Yesterday we visited a local business that was operating 13 hour days, doing double-duty despite the fact the deaths of coworkers, and several employees still unaccounted for.

At Joplin Workshops Inc., disabled adults do loads of laundry and Sunday's tornado put the operation in into overdrive.

"We have to try to take care of hospitals in the area," says laundry manager Ed Zimmer.  "We've done 14,000 pounds today."

The work that takes their minds off their heartache.

When we interviewed Zimmer they knew of two employees who had already passed away, and a third was in the hospital.  Since then, that employee has died as well.

Fortunately, when we spoke to Zimmer yesterday, nine employees were still missing - they have all been found.

Through it all, they hold out hope, and they work to keep patients comfortable and clean at locations like the makeshift triage at Joplin's Memorial Hall.

"I don't know what we'd do without them," says Hilton McDonald, MD - a nose and throat surgeon.  "Our patients would certainly be on dirty linens - used, but we haven't had that problem.  Every morning they come pick up our dirty linens and the next morning they're back."

Despite the record workload, employees and staff say they'll keep churning it out.

"I am unbelievably proud of these people, what they do," says Zimmer, the manager.  "We couldn't do it without them."

Through it all, workers have not missed a beat - they continue to keep area hospitals, clinics and triage supplied with much-needed clean linens.

6:58pm Update

by Angela Greenwood

Brayden BatemanWhile an official list of missing people has helped locate some of those unaccounted for, we are receiving reports of a number of individuals not found on the list yet.

Gail Chitwood is searching for her 5 year old grandson, Brayden Bateman.

Braden's home was not hit by the tornado but Gail can't find the boy or his guardian, Jennifer Bateman.  Gail says she's made several attempts to get through to officials to report her missing grandson but she's had no luck.

"We have been looking for him - his house was in tact - but we don't know if they were in the house when the tornado came through," Gail says.  "He's 5 years old, he has red hair and white skin and beautiful eyes."

Braden's name is not on the official list because Gail says she had a hard time getting through the phone line.

"It's amazing how long it takes to get through or not get through at all.  Even calling Missouri Southern was frustrating because they kept referring me to another number.  It amazes me how hard it is to get any information.  So it's very frustrating."

But Gail remains hopeful.

"It's so much chaos here and it's really hard for them to have everything organized for everybody.  When I'm at home, I'm on the phone - I'm online, but while I'm here, I'm just praying for the Lord to move something in my path - or someone - that knows."

Gail says she will keep trying to get Braden's name on the official missing person's list.

State officials have been working hard to bring the list of 232 names down to zero and say they are committed to providing every resource available to do so.

And as survivors anxiously search day and night through the rubble to find any trace of their missing loved ones, officials want to remind that they are working around the clock and say that the best thing for everyone to do right is remain patient.

"We have to be 100% accurate, so as much pressure as put on us to speed up the process, the process has to take its time," says Don Bloom of the Family Assistance Team.

In the meantime - for her grandson Braydon - Gail says she can't lose faith or think about the worst case scenario."

"You can't focus on that because you can't function," says Gail.

UPDATE ON THIS STORY:  Reported May 27, 2011 at 11:20am CST - We received a call from Brayden Bateman's guardian, Jennifer, last night - both she and her son Brayden are alive and well.

7:04pm Update by Lisa Olliges

$1.3 million has already been given in FEMA assistance says Josh DeBerge of FEMA Community Relations.

He says 1,900 people have been processed for FEMA assistance so far.

7:18pm Update

As the massive search and rescue effort continues this evening, finally, some encouraging news.

This morning, 232 names were listed on the first official list of missing people.  Technically, it is fewer than that because of an overlap between the missing and the recovered bodies - which now stands at 126.  A number of the bodies that have been recovered have not been identified.

The initial list (PDF) had 232 names - some say not all names are not on the list - but at least two of them are now known to be very much alive.

One of those is 75-year-old Sally Adams - the very first person listed.  Her son, Bill Adams, says he told authorities his mother was alive but she remained on their unaccounted-for list at midday today.

Officials say others on the list are probably safe but failed to tell friends and family where they are.

If you know of anyone who is on the list but should not be, call the Found-Persons Hotline: 1-417-895-6868.

If you know of anyone who's is NOT on the list but should be, call 417-659-5464.

The Missouri Department of Public Safety says the list will be updated daily at http://www.dps.mo.gov/.

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