Tornado Destroys Stockton, Mo., Downtown
May. 06, 2003
STOCKTON, Mo. (AP) _ After the Civil War left this southwest Missouri town in tatters, residents rebuilt the town square with brick and stone, thinking it would stand the test of time.
It took a tornado just a few minutes Sunday night to rip it all apart and devastate this Missouri Ozarks community of about 2,000. After the storm that officials say killed three people, no one is envying the task of starting all over _ again.
``This is just total devastation,'' said Mike Conyers of the Missouri Public Utility Alliance, an association of the state's municipal electric utilities. ``It's like: where do you start, what do you do?''
But by Tuesday, Stockton was declaring small victories.
A generator had one of the city's two wells working, although residents were urged to boil their water, said Ian Hafer, emergency management director for the town. Another generator had sewer operations functioning again, and at least some electricity service was expected by Tuesday night.
``We're moving ahead,'' Hafer said.
Some said the twister had gone through the town like a giant lawn mower, sheering giant oaks as if they were blades of grass and piling the wreckage of homes and businesses in heaps.
``I've never seen anything like this, in pictures or otherwise,'' said Rep. Ike Skelton, who toured the city by air Monday. ``The word devastation doesn't do it justice. I'm surprised more people were not injured or killed.''
While the Cedar County courthouse appeared to be all right, many storefronts no longer were distinguishable. Two banks were in ruin, as was the post office and much of a newly restored community building where bluegrass bands had played monthly.
``Stockton square was so historic, but it's not there anymore,'' said Patty Thompson, a local councilwoman.
A drug store was reduced to a single wall, with a few bottles clinging to a stubborn set of shelving. A Great Southern bank branch was left roofless. Its front wall? Gone, along with the drive-through area.
``I'm not sure where the roof landed,'' said Doug Marrs, a bank vice president who was helping ensure that no confidential papers of the branch's clients were out in the open.
A stone's throw from what had been the town's library, funeral home director Robin Fischer grasped for words to eulogize his town of rubble, toppled trees, twisted metal and glass shards.
``It's unbelievable it could do this much damage,'' said Fischer, 50. ``Just to look out this way and see nothing there. There always had been trees. Now they're just splinters. You can't figure out what's missing because there's nothing to use as a reference point.
``It's all gone.''
Now, the initial shock for some in the town formerly known as Lancaster and Fremont before going with Stockton in 1859 in honor of a military man has turned to resolve.
``It can be rebuilt,'' said Hafer. ``It's going to take a quite a while to recover from the economic and emotional loss. One thing's for sure _ a lot of people won't ever forget this.''