The storm that rolled through Hannibal on May 20, 2013, pales in comparison to the EF5 tornado that hit Moore, Okla., a year ago this week.
The storm that rolled through Hannibal on May 20, 2013, pales in comparison to the EF5 tornado that hit Moore, Okla., a year ago this week. However, at least one long-time local weather watcher cannot remember a more destructive storm that’s scored a direct hit on the community.
“I’ve seen a number of storms that have caused spotty damage, blown trees down and have left parts of the city without power for a period of time. This one had the biggest impact I’ve seen in 40-plus years,” said John Hark, Hannibal’s emergency management director. “May 20 will be with me the remainder off my life.”
At the peak of the storm winds in Hannibal reportedly reached 100 mph. However, despite some eyewitnesses who reported seeing a funnel, National Weather Service investigators attributed damage in the city to straight-line winds.
“I’m not in 100 percent agreement with the National Weather Service that it was all straight-line winds,” said Hark. “The National Weather Service based its report on the area of damage being so widespread; the majority of the city had damage. There was not a good debris path. There was debris in all different directions.”
Hark did not have an indication as to how strong the storm was until right before it struck.
“Just minutes before it hit, when we could see how big and black it was, that led me to believe it would be a bad storm. But I did not anticipate the amount of damage,” he said.
While there was significant damage throughout the city in the wake of the storm, Police Chief Lyndell Davis pointed out the weather event’s “silver lining.”
“When you reflect on the effects of the storm, we as a community were fortunate there was no loss of life or serious injury experienced,” he said. “Yes, there were several instances of property damage and extended power outages, but in the end we did not endure the hardship so many communities have had when encountering a violent storm.”
The lack of injuries and deaths might be due in part to the fact the outdoor warning sirens were activated and the county’s CodeRed phone-alert service was utilized.
“We knew there was a tornado warning. That’s why we utilized everything useable to warn people,” said Hark.
While no people were seriously hurt or killed in the storm, a number of trees were brought down by the high winds in city parks, most notably Riverview Park.
“As soon as it (storm) came past my house I drove into town immediately and saw the damage. Aron (Lee, Parks Department recreation supervisor) and I met up and started assessing the damage in all our parks,” said Andy Dorian, director of the Hannibal Parks & Recreation Department. “We made it to the front entrance of Riverview and saw how bad it was.”
Dorian is quick to acknowledge that things could have been far worse.
“I figured that the lighthouse was gone. When we went up there it was perfectly intact. I still don’t know how it withstood all that. I was very pleasantly surprised,” he said.