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Four hurt by Friday tornado; 159 homes damaged on Fort Leonard Wood

FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (Dec. 31, 2010) — Post spokesman Jeff Maddy announced Friday evening that a survey of damaged and destroyed housing conducted by a specialized disaster response team from Columbia found nobody trapped. Only four people were hurt on Fort Leonard Wood by the New Year’s Eve tornado and all of those injuries were minor, Maddy said.

Post officials noted that many Fort Leonard Wood servicemembers and families were away from the installation for holiday leave, and in many cases the houses destroyed by the tornado were empty. None of the injuries involved trainees. That section of the post wasn’t damaged by the tornado, Maddy said, and military training operations for both basic training and AIT are expected to resume Jan. 3.

A total of 159 homes were damaged, with 41 destroyed and 32 others with significant damage, according to an announcement posted by Col. Charles Williams, the post’s garrison commander.

The damaged areas are primarily east of Specker Barracks and Oklahoma Ave and North of Davidson Fitness Center, Williams said, and he asked people to stay out of those areas.

“Sightseeing impedes our ongoing recovery operations,” Williams said.

While a state of emergency declaration was issued by Gov. Jay Nixon noting that at least three people died due to the tornado, none of those three deaths were on Fort Leonard Wood. All four people hurt on post were transported to General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital for treatment; none required more specialized care at larger hospitals, Maddy said.

National Weather Service officials reported that the tornado was an EF-3 tornado destroying several homes on the east side of the installation, with one home having all of its walls destroyed.

“Extensive searches of damaged areas were conducted for possible injured personnel and emergency repairs were made to ensure that all broken or downed utility lines were rendered safe. Fire and rescue workers are expected to work through the night,” Maddy said. “Initial assessments have revealed that extensive to moderate damage occurred to numerous military training areas, moderate damage occurred to installation utility systems, and extensive damage occurred in one installation family housing area. Representatives from the post’s Garrison Command and Emergency Operations Center are working diligently ensure that emergency and essential services are being provided to all families members and military personnel who live on the installation.”

Those emergency response agencies initially included not only Fort Leonard Wood personnel but also firefighters from Waynesville, St. Robert, Crocker, Richland and Doolittle, and a special emergency response team out of Columbia known as Task Force One from the Boone County Fire Protection District called in for their expertise in dealing with damaged structures.

The damage happened in an area that’s largely composed of officer and senior enlisted housing. The tornado “cut a swath through several miles of the installation from the training areas to a family housing area,” Maddy said, causing damage in its path not only to housing but also to training areas, power lines, and communication systems.

The communications systems are back up and running, Maddy said, and both electric and gas utility crews are working to restore service for those utilities throughout the post.

National Weather Service officials have released only a partial map of the path of the tornado and more work is expected tomorrow to assess damage.

Lawson Smith, Pulaski County’s director of emergency management, said the tornado entered the post around Cannon Range on the southwest end of Fort Leonard Wood where Laclede County meets Pulaski County, and then came through Fort Leonard Wood in a northeasterly direction before exiting at an angle toward Phelps County.

No major damage has been reported outside the installation, Smith said.

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