A storm on Thursday afternoon (Aug. 16) blocked the way home for some Hillsboro students and damaged the roof of a De Soto elementary school.
A dozen Hillsboro students, estimated to be age 10 or younger, sought shelter at the new Mapaville firehouse after a downed tree took out a live power line and closed Morgan Road just after 4 p.m.
The students were traveling home on a school bus when the storm hit.
Darryl Reed, chief of the Mapaville Fire Protection District, said the weather created a dangerous situation on Morgan Road.
“The tree and the lines were burning,” he said. “Finally, the power line burned in two and the top of the tree landed in the road.”
He said the wires were “live” with electricity. Reed said vehicles couldn’t safely pass so the Mapaville Fire Protection District closed the roadway until Ameren Missouri crews could arrive and remove the lines.
“There was no way to know how long it would be before the Ameren crews could get there, so I said let’s take the kids to the firehouse rather than waiting on the bus,” Reed said.
The school district sent personnel to the firehouse. Parents were contacted, and over the next two hours, they arrived at the firehouse to pick up students.
Reed said Morgan Road reopened at about 6:45 p.m.
Calamity was striking Athena Elementary School east of De Soto at about the same time the tree was falling near Mapaville.
Athena principal Alex Mahn said the storm damaged her building at 3775 Athena School Road about 4:15 p.m., tearing off part of roof over the school library.
Water began leaking into the library, Mahn said, so 25 or so staff members mobilized to save the library’s 18,000 books and other materials. Volunteers pitched in too, she said.
“We had staff members springing to help and some parents who were here to pick up their kids.”
They formed a book brigade, handing books down the hall from the library to the multipurpose room
Mahn said some of the books got wet, but she believes they will survive.
Lt. Dave Brown of the Hematite Fire Protection District said a brief fire was reported in connection with the roof damage but it was out when firefighters arrived. Fire crews assisted in removing the books and computer equipment from the library, he said.
“It was a small electrical fire caused by water getting into the electrical system,” he said. “It did not look like it did any damage. All of the damage was water damage.”
Athena’s school day ends at 3:30 p.m. and most of the school’s 695 students had gone home for the day when the incident occurred, Mahn said.
She said 15 Athena students in a YMCA after-school program were taken to a district building next door to the school. Some children of staff members also were in the building at the time. No injuries were reported.
Classes resumed as usual today (Aug. 17).
Mahn said she wants the library restored quickly.
“We are waiting to hear from the adjuster as to when we can start (roof repair),” Mahn said. “We need to assess the shelves. Our hope is to have the library up and running as soon as possible. We are prepared to use our multipurpose room as a library if it becomes necessary.”
Brown said fire crews remained on the scene until 7:10 p.m. Hematite was assisted by the De Soto city, De Soto Rural, Festus and Hillsboro districts and departments.
–Peggy Scott and Kevin Carbery
– Ted Howell photo: librarian Nancy Withinton in the midst of the disaster.