Safety & Compliance

Relief Efforts Under Way Following Joplin Tornado

May 25, 2011

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Relief efforts are under way after an EF5 tornado struck Joplin, Mo., early Sunday, claiming at least 123 lives and leveling thousands of homes.

Jeff Nene, senior director of public relations at Convoy of Hope, a disaster relief organization headquartered in nearby Springfield, Mo., has visited disaster zones around the world and said this is among the worst he's ever seen.

A massive tornado tossed trucks about at the Flying J in Joplin, Mo. Photo by Shane Kirk.
A massive tornado tossed trucks about at the Flying J in Joplin, Mo. Photo by Shane Kirk.

"It's really different when it happens this close to home," said Nene, who recently returned from a relief trip to Japan, which was ravaged earlier this year by an earthquake and tsunami. "This time it is more emotional for us… an F5 tornado doesn't leave anything intact."

Nene described the tornado as a "grinder" chewing up everything its path. There are no trees left standing, and in some cases the grass was ripped right of the ground. A helicopter tossed from the roof of St. John's Hospital was nearly unrecognizable, he said.

Convoy of Hope's private fleet delivers truckload quantities of supplies to domestic disaster areas. So far, four of the organization's trucks have delivered supplies of food, water and ice to Joplin, with an additional load of propane and tents from Bass Pro Shops. As people begin to regroup in the next few days, Convoy of Hope will also be delivering cleaning supplies including trash bags and rakes.

Locally headquartered R&R Trucking is also helping. The company has sent two 48-foot trailers of water, rain gear and other supplies to Joplin from their Crane, Ind., facility. Additionally, the company donated an empty trailer to serve as a storage unit at triage center set up at St. John's Hospital, and a reefer unit to the school system to store food while power is still down.

At this time, the Missouri Department of Transportation is still asking trucks to bypass Joplin at I-44, unless to fuel at exit 4. There is no fuel at exit 11, and no other truck services are operational. Additionally, there is a restricted area north of the interstate. Unauthorized vehicles entering the area will be ticketed.

We also have reports that several truck dealers and engine distributors in the area were hit, with damage ranging from minor to "wiped out," according to one dealer executive. And a tornado destroyed Cross-Midwest Tire Co.'s commercial tire service center in Joplin.

Donate Through Proper Channels

Joplin is in need of assistance on many levels, but trucking companies and individuals looking to help should use the proper channels to avoid adding to the confusion.

Trucking companies interested in helping are advised to contact professionals. Tom Crawford, president and CEO of the Missouri Trucking Association, asked people donating supplies and services to contact Missouri's State Emergency Management Agency. Crawford said that the outpouring of support thus far has been touching, but that it is important to make sure the right things are getting to the right people.

"[Truckers] want to jump in a truck and deliver stuff… it is appreciated, but there is no place to put it," said Crawford. Many streets in Joplin are completely impassable, and there is a shortage of space to store all the incoming supplies.

Crawford also noted that at this point financial assistance and medical supplies are most needed.

SEMA can be contacted by phone at 573.526.9364. Trucking companies can also visit SEMA's website where they can input what they have to donate as far as supplies and equipment. The website is frequently checked by SEMA workers.

Additionally, companies wishing to donate trucking services can contact Convoy of Hope at (417) 823-8998 and ask for the logistics department, or make a $10 donation by texting 'Convoy' to 50555.

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