Small Missouri town slowly rebounding from tornado

DUQUESNE, Mo. (AP) — Signs of recovery are beginning to sprout in the southwest Missouri town of Duquesne, which was severely damaged by the same tornado system that devastated Joplin last month.

About 60 percent to 70 percent of the town on the eastern edge of Joplin was damaged by the May 22 tornado, leaving at least eight people dead. Piles of debris and the remains of homes and businesses still dot the town’s landscape.

But under blue skies and mild temperatures this week, progress was noticeable. New street markers and stop signs have been installed, numerous residential and commercial permits have been issued and some rebuilding has begun.

City records show 250 homes were destroyed and another 250 were damaged. City officials decided against enacting a moratorium on new construction, as Joplin has done.

“We’ve lived here 46 years,” said Bill Crampton, who along with his wife, Donna, decided to stay and repair their home. “We’re not going anywhere.”

At the Fast Trip convenience store, which was leveled by the storm, new rebar was up, a concrete slab was scheduled to be poured and work had already begun on the foundation and plumbing. The store owners hope to reopen in 50 days.

“There is a lot of optimism in Duquesne right now,” Mayor Denny White, 69, said Wednesday from his bed at Freeman Health System in Joplin.

He had been admitted Tuesday for treatment for a respiratory infection that his wife, Cathy, attributed to working nearly around the clock since the tornado. He was discharged Thursday.

White attributed part of the progress to help from outside the city.

“We’ve gotten fantastic support from all over the United States coming in to do volunteer work. When the (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) came in, they were surprised that we were that far along,” he said.

But he also praised Duquesne’s residents.

“It blows my mind when I drive around and look at what’s been done,” he said. “Duquesne is a small city, but it has a big heart.”

He doesn’t have an exact count, but said numerous businesses have confirmed they would rebuild.

White has operated Denny’s Auto Sales and Denny’s Used Office Furniture in Duquesne for 45 years. His businesses were leveled by the tornado, but were some of the first commercial construction projects to begin last week. Walls are up, and electrical and plumbing installation will begin soon.

“I decided within a couple hours (after the tornado) to rebuild. There was never any question. That’s what you do,” he said. “Someone had to get it started, get it going.”

He plans to open for business by the end of July.

“No one’s planning on running away. We’re going to be here,” White said. “Everyone’s just kicking in and going at it.”

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