SURVIVE THE STORM: Fair Grove Supt. remembers derecho

Published: Apr. 2, 2017 at 2:42 PM CDT
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It’s a story of survival and luck.

When it hit their school, Ozarks students and faculty survived a storm like no other.

"That's the day you'll never forget. I think the screams of the students that morning will be forever etched in our minds. The day of May 8, 2009," said Fair Grove R-X School District Superintendent Mike Bell.

A derecho with 80-90 mile an hour straight line winds hit the school.

"The roof from about this point on was completely off from the beginning of the high school to this point of the building the roof was taken completely off," Bell said.

The superintendent remembers the first sign trouble was coming – the American flag – flying out front.

"It went from blowing one way to the total opposite direction within a matter of seconds," said Bell. "That's when we realized that it was definitely on us and about to hit."

"That event stopped us to make us realize we are really not a safe school when it came to a tornado or a storm," Bell said.

So what you can hear now is much different than eight years ago. It is the sound of play inside the school’s FEMA shelter. It is open to students and the public alike during warnings.

"Typically we open the FEMA shelter when there is any event that could occur: thunderstorm warning, leading into tornado warning. We try to get the FEMA shelter open before that actually occurs," Bell said.

Thankfully no one died eight years ago at Fair Grove schools, but it was a wake up call.

“It was surreal. An event that you drill for, plan for, but you never believe that type of tragedy could ever happen. We were very lucky that no one was hurt that day,” said Bell.

Before a storm hits and warnings are issued, you need to know where to go. That’s why we’ve included where all the FEMA shelters are in the Ozarks right here on this story.