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2007 ice storm brought major changes to the Springfield-Greene Co. Office of Emergency Management

Published: Jan. 14, 2022 at 5:10 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - There’s no better example of the changes brought about by the great ice storm of 2007 than the Greene County Office of Emergency Management’s Public Safety Center which serves as the focal point of coordination among city and county agencies.

The two-story, 56,000 square foot state-of-the-art facility opened in 2012 and one of the main reasons for building it was because of the 2007 ice storm as the old facility was too small and antiquated to handle the crisis.

“We had 65-70 people here on a 24/7 basis,” said former director Ryan Nicholls. “We had the National Guard sleeping in the elevator. We had food in the hallways.”

It’s the job of the Office of Emergency Management to respond to all natural disasters and emergencies. And compared to all the tornadoes, storms and floods OEM has dealt with over the years, current director Larry Woods said the 2007 ice storm was the most difficult to tackle after City Utilities lost three-quarters of its system and around 330 power poles.

“I would rank it probably at the top,” Woods said. “That evening started off with large swaths of the power going out. We were in the process of evacuating a nursing home from the extreme north side of town to the extreme south side of town. And something as simple as trying to get people from their houses to dialysis was a challenge. It was just a month of constant turmoil trying to get power back and help people.”

Even when the ice storm was over and power restored, there was still a massive clean up to coordinate.

“We brought in debris removal companies from all over the country and it took well over three months,” Woods recalled. “We had burn piles. We had mulching. Just anyway we could dispose of the vegetation debris. But we developed a lot of friendships and partnerships during that time and I think really, as a community, we pulled together rather well.”

It wasn’t easy though as streets had to be cleared so traffic could move, residents had all kinds of emergencies at their homes from fires to broken pipes to trees falling through their roofs, and people were calling in about health problems or questions about how to survive with no electricity.

“Probably the worst thing was just struggling with the power,” Woods said. “When you have a catastrophic ice storm no power grid is going to be able to withstand the amount of ice that we were dealing with at the time. On the bright side the weather leading up to the ice storm was so warm that the ground temperature never fell enough to allow the ice to stick to the ground. It was all overhead. Had the ice been on the ground it would have doubled our difficulties.”

The ice storm’s legacy is not only evident in the state-of-the-art emergency response building it brought to Springfield, but also in the response itself.

“It really gave us a new perspective on our emergency operation,” Woods pointed out. “So we literally rewrote the plan and the processes that we use to respond to incidents.”

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