Springfield News-Leader (Missouri)
BYLINE: By, Sarah Okeson SOKESON@NEWS-LEADER.COM
The calls from City Administrator Dean Kruithof to city department heads started soon after the Leap Day tornado touched down at 1:13 a.m.
City officials spent the predawn hours setting up a command center and starting to map the damage. In the days that followed, there were assessments of damage and efforts to help residents who were displaced or lost their homes.
On Thursday, officials met at the RecPlex, which had temporarily served as a shelter, to assess how they did after the event that Branson Police Chief Kent Crutcher called the worst disaster he’s been involved in.
“Everything seemed to work very well,” Crutcher said.
City officials said the tornado could allow them to rebuild better.
“This is going to create quite a few opportunities for us,” Mayor Raeanne Presley said.
No one died, and there was no looting. Officers from Springfield, Joplin and Boone County all showed up to help, as did the National Guard and the Missouri Highway Patrol.
At Thursday’s meeting, officials briefly discussed CodeRED, a telephone emergency warning system designed to alert residents in case of such an emergency. It didn’t call most of the Branson residents who had signed up for it because their information hadn’t been reloaded into a database. Branson officials had briefly let the contract lapse, and the information had to be re-entered, company officials said.
“If there’s any one take away, it’s trust but verify,” Kruithof said.
Planning and Zoning Director Jim Lawson said 37 properties suffered major damage or were destroyed by the storm. Another 41 suffered minor to major damage.
Perhaps the hardest hit was the Hilton Branson Convention Center which had an estimated $1 million to $1.5 million in damage.
The facility laid off about 100 employees Wednesday, and Derbins said he didn’t know how long it will be before Hilton can call them back.
“Obviously, we want them all to come back,” he said. “They’ll be coming back in various stages.”
The city has issued 83 new contractors licenses to firms that want to help Branson rebuild, and city officials are hoping that the repair work will go as smoothly as their response to the tornado.
“I’ve heard nothing but good news from our community about the way people responded,” Presley said.
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