A strong storm system swept into Atchison County Thursday, July 7, 2016. The full force of the storm hit Fairfax around 3:00 a.m. The lights went out, then came a loud roaring sound, followed by rain and some hail, then winds, and the sound of glass breaking. The U.S. National Weather Service in Kansas City, Missouri, later determined that the winds that hit Atchison County had a sustained velocity of 80-85 MPH.
U.S. Hwy. 59 through town was closed due to downed power lines, trees and debris, and a grain bin blocking the road. Emergency personnel worked to clear the streets and highway, and crews from KCP&L worked to restore electricity. Parts of Fairfax had power in about 12 hours, but some residents in town were still without power on Friday.
The entire town suffered damage in some form.
At the school, the fence around the football field was bent over, the crow’s nest on the football field was blown over, the scoreboard was knocked down, and there were lots of trees on the playground.
Tree limbs were down at the city park, and in downtown Fairfax the roof was damaged on the flower shop building and on the Fairfax Depot, and the sign was torn from the library building. Multiple grain bins were blown over and scattered around, with one blocking Highway 59 for a while. Light poles were broken and hanging from the wires.
Home damage included porches torn from homes, and there were plenty of cars under tree limbs. In the country, implement sheds storing tractors and cars were destroyed and they too had tree damage. The crops suffered too.
The owner of the old hospital lot offered a place for the town to dump their tree branches. When that lot was filled, brush pile dumping was moved to the baseball field parking lot. A third debris pile (for auto dumping trucks and/or trailers only) is now located at the county barn on Hwy. 59.
Agencies offering assistance in the form of free meals, water, and cooling stations included Community Hospital-Fairfax, Fairfax City Hall, Fairfax R-3 School, Fairfax Baptist Church, Salvation Army, and Community Services. The Kansas City Salvation Army canteen truck served hundreds of meals and drinks each day, and countless volunteers helped.
Volunteers offered equipment and time to clear the debris. Fairfax residents started the work at hand, then help arrived from all over Atchison County. Both old and young helped any way they could, from running chain saws, picking up branches and loading them onto wagons, to raking yards. Football teams, FFA Chapters, 4-H members, church volunteers and countless others have been working in Fairfax. Other volunteers delivered meals to local residents.
State Representative Allen Andrews’ office has contacted Governor Nixon as well as being assisted by Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder’s office to urge the governor to provide a chipper to help grind up the brush.
The American Legion cook-out, scheduled for Saturday, July 9, was cancelled and will be rescheduled at a later date.
The First Christian Church from Mound City will be doing a “stay mission” this year. The group of approximately 20 will treat this the same as an out of town mission and will stay together as a group at their church. They will be serving the people of the area with their focus being on Fairfax, and helping the town at the end of July with its clean-up.
In the event that Fairfax receives a disaster declaration due to the storm, information will be needed on what type of volunteer help was received. Volunteer hours add up quickly and may help the City of Fairfax recoup some of the debris removal costs.
Volunteer contributions that may be claimed and the information required to go with them is as follows:
• Time: Date(s) and hours worked for every person. This includes hours worked (i.e., 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.) for debris removal, food service, prep, delivery, etc. • Vehicles: Exact make, model and year of vehicle. If a pickup truck, note whether it is a 1 ton, 3/4 ton, 1/2 ton, etc. Also need date(s) and hours used (i.e., 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.).
• Trailers: Type, whether it’s a flatbed, box trailer, etc.; length of trailer; and whether it’s a hitch hook-up or gooseneck. Also need date(s) and hours used (i.e., 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.).
• Food: Any time spent feeding volunteers or paid workers, preparing meals, purchasing meals, and any associated costs with those tasks.
This will not pay volunteers, but it could greatly assist the City of Fairfax in the event of a disaster declaration. There are sign-up sheets at Fairfax City Hall, or information can be e-mailed to: cityoffairfax@fairfaxmo.net.
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