|UPDATED: Storm slams Cuba, kills local woman|
|Written by Rob Viehman|
|Sunday, 08 July 2012 17:41|
An isolated thunderstorm brought some much-needed rain to Cuba Saturday afternoon, but it also brought death and destruction in the form of a microburst that leveled trees, damaged buildings and took down power lines throughout the city. It left one person dead.
The storm struck at about 6 p.m. with no warning. The National Weather Service had not issued so much as a Severe Thunderstorm Watch for the Cuba area and warning sirens did not blow until after the initial wind burst had struck. Most of the damage in town was confined to an area from W. Washington Blvd. to Interstate 44 and west of Highway 19.
Kayla Martin, 28, was killed while sitting in her car in the parking lot of ALPS grocery story when debris from a wind-torn roof smashed through her windshield and struck her in the chest. She was reportedly talking to her brother, who was sitting in an adjacent vehicle, at the time. Both were taken to Phelps County Regional Medical Center in Rolla, where she was pronounced dead.
By Sunday morning, friends and family members had erected a memorial for Martin on columns in front of the grocery store. One sign reads, “We Love and Miss You Kay-Kay. Spread your wings and fly. We know you are an angel,” while another was for people to write “Memories of Kayla Ann Martin.” Martin had two young children, one of them a newborn child, and was the manager at the Cuba Phillips 66 station.
The part of the roof that struck Martin’s car was blown an entire block eastward, torn from the Cuba Post Office, before landing in the ALPS parking lot. It went over two large buildings, including Roberts-Judson Lumber Co. About half the roof remained attached to the Post Office, but was blown westward onto an adjacent building. The pitched roof had been added to the Post Office, which originally had a flat roof. There was also roof damage at ALPS, and that debris also may have struck Martin’s car, according to some reports.
An equipment shed wall at Cuba Public Works was completely blown out, but it was the only reported damage to a city property. Some residential roofs suffered minor damages, and several commercial signs and awnings were blown down.
Power lines were downed throughout the city during the storm, and city employees worked overtime on Sunday to restore power. The entire crew at public works was shifted to the Electric Department to assist in electric grid repairs, and they worked from about 6:30 p.m. on Saturday to 4:30 p.m. Sunday, nonstop. Some areas were still without power at the start of the workweek, due to the number of lines and poles damaged or destroyed by the wind.
According to Public Works Director Bob Baldwin, out of the five electrical circuits covering the city’s grid, four were down at one point after the storm. “In some areas, it completely wiped out the lines and poles and we had to go in and rebuild the system,” he said. There were a total of 13 electrical poles down in three areas hardest hit by the windstorm. Luckily, the city had only recently ordered new utility poles and had plenty of equipment and supplies on hand to make needed repairs.
City crews and private citizens were kept busy, cutting up downed limbs and trees throughout town. Much of the debris had simply been cut up and moved out of the street to allow for traffic to get through. Removal of the limbs and trees will undoubtedly take weeks, but the city has announced it will handle all clean up of brush and limbs if homeowners will simply place their yard waste at curbside. “We may not be able to get to them right away, but we will get to them sooner or later,” said Baldwin. “We’ll be sending trucks around to collect all that debris and transport it to the city dump.”
The dump area is also being kept open for limbs and brush if citizens wish to transport their own yard waste to the dumpsite.
While many area residents were reporting on their Facebook pages that Cuba was struck by a tornado Saturday afternoon, there is no evidence that that was the case. There is no classic path of destruction in Cuba, as is normally the case with a tornado. Reports of a roof collapse at ALPS were mistaken.
Instead, authorities believe the city was hit with a microburst, which is a very localized column of sinking air, which can produce “divergent and straight-line winds at the surface that are similar to, but distinguishable from tornadoes, which generally have convergent damage.” Throughout Cuba there is evidence of this divergent damage, with trees having fallen in different directions in different parts of the city.
Microbursts are known to cause serious and widespread damage and commonly knock over fully grown trees. They usually last in duration from just a couple of seconds to a few minutes.
Emergency Preparedness Director Rodney Neff said the microburst was believed to have struck two locations in Cuba—near I-44 at the antique malls and also around ALPS in the historic business district. He said the localized winds were 65-75 miles per hour and struck a narrow area about a mile long and .03 miles wide. The microburst occurs when a thunderstorm collapses and rushes colder air from the clouds to the ground. Warnings were not issued ahead of time because the microburst type of storm occurs suddenly and without any indication.
“The Weather Service saw something on radar but it wasn’t clear, and by the time it showed up on their computers, it had already happened,” said Neff. The town’s storm siren system was sounded by the police department at their discretion in case of additional high winds. It was not, however, a tornado, reported Neff.
Saturday’s microburst was the second one to hit the Cuba area in less than a week. A week ago today, what was believed to have been a microburst caused extensive damage to the Flying A Motorsports building, which is located about four miles west of Cuba on I-44.
|Last Updated on Tuesday, 10 July 2012 20:36|