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Severe storm damages Burger Hut in Needles August 19, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Restaurants, Weather.
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A severe storm that caused up to $5 million in damage to the Needles, California, included the historic Burger Hut restaurant along Route 66.

The Needles Daily Star had a roundup about the Aug. 12 storm, including the Burger Hut:

Ana Johnson, owner of The Burger Hut, said she was glad no one was hurt. She had finished with a customer when the storm struck about 4 p.m.

Repairs will take time, she said. The restaurant is insured but to evaluate the damage and possibly make repairs will take time.

There was significant damage to the plumbing and to the electrical system, she said. There is a piece of the roof missing and water damage inside.

Reopening will be a wait and see proposition, she said. It’s unknown what the cost is and she’s unsure of what will happen.

The Los Angeles Times also reported the closed Overland Inn motel also lost its roof during the storm. At least two cars were swept off the road by floodwaters and into the Colorado River. Fortunately, the motorists were rescued.

The Star reported 2.2 inches of rain fell during the storm, which is Noah-like proportions for such a desert town. Straight-line winds, estimated at 60 mph, also knocked over more than 50 power poles and damaged other businesses.

I was in Needles days after the storm. Most of the damage had been cleaned up, but a railroad underpass near downtown still contained several feet of water and remained closed to traffic.

The Burger Hut was built in 1957 by Lee McCary. It was renamed Irene’s Burger Hut, then Irene’s Drive-In, before reverting to its original name.

Fire destroys Tucumcari hotel July 17, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Motels, Weather.
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A Hampton Inn hotel in the Route 66 town of Tucumcari, New Mexico, was destroyed after fire swept through its roof and top floors Wednesday, reported the Quay County Sun and other news outlets.

Nearly 30 overnight guests were evacuated with no injuries, reported the newspaper, and were moved to nearby hotels. It’s believed a lightning strike on the roof of the hotel’s southwest corner caused the blaze.

Meanwhile, volunteers helped the hotel’s guests find clothes, shoes and phones to contact family members.

Owner Nitin Bhakta, who said the hotel was a total loss, said the hotel’s fire-alarm system failed, even though it had been tested recently. It’s likely, however, the lightning strike fried the system’s electronics.

We’ve long advocated for Route 66 tourists to stay in mom-and-pop motels. However, Hampton Inns about a decade ago helped with a few restoration projects on Route 66 and sponsored a Route 66 Caravan in 2002. So, if you want a chain hotel on the Mother Road, that’s one that merits a look.

As for Tucumcari, I suspect what’s Hampton Inn’s loss is several independent motel owners’ gain. The Blue Swallow Motel, Motel Safari and Historic Route 66 Motel all get high marks from travelers and will do nicely for Hampton Inn guests who had booked reservations. And the Roadrunner Lodge will open any day now.

Severe hail causes a white July in Flagstaff July 10, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Towns, Weather.
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A potent monsoon storm dumped heavy rains and hail on the east side of Flagstaff, Arizona, on Tuesday — causing residents to break out the snow shovels a few months early.

According to the Arizona Daily Sun, so much hail fell that one resident reported that lawns still were white from piled-up hail on Wednesday. One resident reported that hail fell for 15 straight minutes during the storm.

About 30 homes reportedly encountered flooding or damage from the storm.

The combination of water, mud and hail clogged culverts and other drainage holes, reported Anthony Sockyma.

The stream had a four foot wall of hail pellets piled up against his rear fence, which he shares with several neighbors. The flood water was two feet deep at their back doors.

“All of a sudden, the water came down the hill and it was a downpour for a while,” Sockyma said. “The water couldn’t go anywhere else, so it just started coming through (my yard).”

Then, the Flagstaff Fire Department arrived with squeegees. The agency said that hail reached three to four feet deep in area throughout the east side, blocking traffic and moving sludgy mud and debris. Sockyma worked with the crews to get his belongings above the water as it moved through his back door and out the front. He and many of his neighbors escaped with little property damage, even though water entered their homes.

The situation in Flagstaff sounds eerily like the severe hailstorm that struck Santa Rosa, New Mexico, also in July last year. But that storm damaged hundreds of homes or businesses and forced highway departments to break out their snowplows for hail that was several feet deep. Santa Rosa marked its first anniversary of the storm just days ago.

(Screen capture of an Arizona Daily Sun video after the hail storm)

The lost photos of Joplin May 25, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Photographs, Towns, Weather.
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May 22 marked the third anniversary of the powerful tornado that struck Joplin, Missouri, and changed that Route 66 city forever.

I recommend you read this story from Al-Jazeera America about the Lost Photos of Joplin project, which collected more than 40,000 photographs scattered by the storm.

There are lithographs of ancestors from the 1800s, black-and-white photos from World War II, family vacation memories, baby photos, school pictures, big-haired prom shots from the 1980s, Polaroids from Christmas morning, developed film from school plays — there are even a few that made some of the women of the church blush, Beeler said with a laugh.

The rest of Joplin’s photos have since been moved from First Baptist in Carthage to the Joplin Museum Complex, where they will be permanently stored. Beeler considers what his group has done a success, even though tens of thousands of photos remain unclaimed. He knows some people may not even be aware of the project, and that it may be too painful for some to come collect photos of their lives from before the tornado.

He knows some of the pictures are of people who died in the storm, and will never be claimed.

Thad Beeler, who organized the photo-collection effort with the church and many other volunteers, hopes their work can also be done in other disaster-stricken towns across the country, including the recently tornado-hit towns of Quapaw, Oklahoma, and Baxter Springs, Kansas.

The tornado’s destruction still beggars belief. With 161 dead, it was the deadliest tornado in the United States in more than 60 years. It injured more than 1,100, destroyed about 2,000 buildings, and caused nearly $3 billion in damage.

The Al-Jazeera report also collected vivid memories of the disaster:

Chattelier recalled feeling the suction of the storm as her husband lay on top of her, holding on to a support beam. When she opened her eyes, her glasses had been torn from her face. The things she had in her pockets were gone, replaced with debris. They found her daughter’s car at the top of a tree blocks away with massive gashes in it. [...]

In the days following the tornado, stories emerged that illustrated how horrifying the power of the storm had been. Hospital patients had been sucked out of their beds and out of the windows. Entire stores disintegrated while people huddled inside. Some victims could never be identified.

I didn’t get to Joplin for days after the tornado, but followed it closely the night it happened through Twitter and the Internet. I knew it was bad because of one thing in particular: An officer on the police radio mentioned taking someone to “the temporary morgue.”

(Image of one of the many thousands of unclaimed photos from the Joplin tornado)

Route 66 Cares distributes money to tornado-stricken towns May 21, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Events, Towns, Weather.
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Route 66 Cares, an offshoot of the Route 66 Chamber of Commerce, on Sunday distributed more than $1,500 from donations and fundraisers to the tornado-ravaged towns of Quapaw, Oklahoma, and Baxter Springs, Kansas.

The Red Ball Bar & Grill in Baxter Springs provided especially stout support. A benefit pancake breakfast raised almost $750.

The first check presentation of $1,265 by Ron Hart was made to the First Assembly of God Church in Baxter Springs. Route 66 Cares explains why the church was a more-than-deserving recipient:

Within hours after part of Baxter Springs was destroyed, Pastor Dallas Satterfield and his congregation had set-up a kitchen that would serve over 5000 hot meals the first week….breakfast, lunch and dinners, and on Tuesday, April 29th., served over 1,100 meals! As of May 15th., they had cooked, served and also delivered over 6,150 meals at no charge to the storms victims, volunteers, first responders, city & county workers, utility workers and more.

The congregation members also unloaded a “Convoy of Hope” semi-trailer full of donated supplies and distributed it to where it was most needed. Their volunteers also drove the damaged areas handing-out work gloves, meals and water every day.

The church also provided shelter in their auditorium for some storm victims, out-of-area volunteer workers and the “Poured-Out” Ministries from Michigan who arrived with heavy equipment to clear debris, and who will continue their work until all demolished homesites have been cleared.

The church has incurred a lot of expenses because of its disaster relief. Hart also said the church sent donations and volunteers to nearby Joplin, Missouri, when it was struck by a massive tornado in 2011.

Route 66 Cares also gave a $250 check to the Quapaw Fire Department, which suffered extensive damage to its firehouse. Fortunately, the department is well-insured, and Hart said the department should move back into the repair firehouse within three months or so.

If you want to donate, checks may be mailed to: Route 66 Cares, c/o Baxter Springs Chamber of Commerce, 1004 Military Ave., Baxter Springs, KS 66713. One may also use the Chamber’s PayPal account to send money to visit66(at)yahoo(dot)com and using “Route 66 Cares” in the memo.

(Images courtesy of Ron Hart)

Route 66 organization raising funds for tornado-stricken towns May 2, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Towns, Weather.
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The Route 66 Chamber of Commerce has launched a Route 66 Cares page on Facebook and is collecting donations to help the tornado-wracked towns of Quapaw, Oklahoma, and Baxter Springs, Kansas, recover in the wake of this week’s storms.

The PayPal email address is visit66(at)yahoo(dot)com. Donations also can be mailed to: Route 66 Cares, c/o Baxter Springs Chamber of Commerce, 1004 Military Avenue, Baxter Springs, KS. 66713.

Ron Hart, who runs the chamber of commerce, also told me this via email:

I learned from Baxter Mayor Randall Trease that FEMA will not likely provide recovery funds, as the total loss may not meet their criteria, which means that every penny raised will be needed to get the town back in shape.  According to published stats, 160 homes were totally destroyed and many others will need extensive repairs. A total of 12 businesses, most on 66, were also destroyed … not to mention the losses in Quapaw. Look at the photos and you will see that these homes were just as destroyed as the ones in Joplin, just not in the large numbers.

In the meantime, if those in the Route 66 community wish to send a token donation, I will be happy to see that every penny counts.

The effort was inspired by fundraising after the infamous 2011 Joplin tornado. About $2,500 eventually was raised at the time.

The Facebook page of Route 66 Cares also contains a lot of photos of the damage from Sunday’s tornado. Despite the storm’s ferocity, there was only one confirmed death.

(Image of Quapaw, Okla., before and after Sunday’s tornado.)

Tornado kills at least one in Quapaw, Baxter Springs April 27, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Towns, Weather.
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A tornado has killed at least two people one person and destroyed a fire station in the Route 66 town of Quapaw, Okla., near the Kansas border, according to the Tulsa World and other media outlets. One media outlet also reported a death in the nearby Route 66 town of Baxter Springs, Kan.

The twister hit the town of about 900 people about 5:30 p.m. today. The Cherokee County News-Advocate in nearby Kansas reports that roads leading to Quapaw are blocked by police. The newspaper said the town’s police station was heavily damaged as well and that the tornado went through the center of town.

The Joplin Globe reported the twister also caused “significant” damage to another Route 66 town, Baxter Springs, Kan., according to former city council member Gary Allen.

The Globe also posted a photo of the twister from a reader.

Andrea Hicks uploaded her son’s video of the tornado from nearby Galena, Kan. Caution: The clip contains adult language:

Severe storms had been forecast in Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri for much of the weekend. Quapaw sits just a few miles from where a deadly tornado struck Picher, Okla., in 2008 and Joplin, Mo., in 2011.

We’ll post more information here as we get it.

UPDATE: The Tulsa World has posted a few photos from the scene in Quapaw.

UPDATE 4/28/2014: The Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department lowered the death toll in Quapaw to one after initially reporting two deaths Sunday evening.

The Red Cross of Eastern Oklahoma has been providing relief to residents whose homes were damaged or destroyed. The Cherokee County News-Advocate reported in Baxter Springs one death, 25 injured, up to 70 homes destroyed and about 25 businesses destroyed.

The Joplin Globe reported that at least six people were hurt in Quapaw from the storm. According to several reports, the tornado that struck the town came with no warning. It remained uncertain whether the fatality in Quapaw was a local resident; he or she was in car when the twister struck.

A Kansas City television station filed this report Monday morning:

A station in northwest Arkansas also filed this report Monday from Quapaw:

UPDATE: A reader sent this before-and-after look of Quapaw:

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