Joplin truckers take stock; relief efforts begin gathering supplies

By Charlie Morasch, Land Line staff writer | 5/24/2011

Had Scott Littlefield made it to Joplin’s Flying J truck stop a few minutes earlier Sunday, he might not be alive to tell the tale.

Littlefield, an OOIDA member and veteran driver from Joplin, was preparing to exit Highway 249 to pull into the Flying J when the tornado struck the area.

In an instant, a combination of rain, hail and wind obliterated everything in his view. Large chunks flew in the air.

“I thought ‘this is serious,’” Littlefield said. “There is stuff everywhere.”

Littlefield stood on his brakes “as hard as I could,” and jumped into his bunk. At some point, the tornado’s winds ripped through his passenger windows and windshield, resulting in cuts to his face.

After the storm passed, he looked outside and noticed a truck turned over directly in front of his truck.

The 52,000 pounds of flour he was hauling may have kept his truck grounded. As he looked around the Flying J, Littlefield said his hometown looked like it had been turned on its head.

“Those trucks were piled up everywhere like Tonka toys,” Littlefield said.

OOIDA Member Carl Bryan, a 54-year driver with “probably 6 or 7 million” safe driving miles said he never heard tornado warning sirens sound off before it hit.

“I’m not saying they didn’t go off,” he said, “but I didn’t hear them.”

Bryan, who lives at 32nd Street and Grand, said the tornado damaged the roof of his shop that’s south of Joplin. Neither of his two trucks or his trailer were hit.

“Me and my bulldog were watching TV when I heard the news,” Bryan said. “I was raised up in Oklahoma, so I knew I was in trouble for. I told my bulldog, ‘We better find us a hole.”

The tornado missed Bryan’s house.

“I was lucky,” he said.

Hundreds of OOIDA members and Land Line readers live in Joplin. As many of them took stock of the tornado’s damage and checked on friends Tuesday, relief efforts were already shuttling toiletries and other supplies to refugees.

Convoy of Hope is a faith-based organization from Springfield, MO, that organizes disaster responses and works to feed the hungry. The group sent a truckload of supplies to Joplin Tuesday, and said it had several more trucks ready to bring more goods.

More information, including ways to donate online, is available on the organization’s website.

“It’s been very busy,” a worker named Peggy said.

The group’s website says it has worked in more than 100 countries to help 43 million people.

One Joplin trucking company has begun its own campaign to help those displaced by Sunday’s tornado.

R & R Trucking, of nearby Duenweg, MO, is collecting water, canned goods, flashlight, raincoats and other supplies.

Kevin McKelvy, vice president of administration for R & R Trucking, told Land Line Now reporter Reed Black Tuesday that his company was using its logistics expertise to  arrange for supplies to make it to Joplin.

The company also is providing trailers for St. John’s Medical Center to be used as a treatment center for triage.

Shippers and others the company does business with have poured in to help the cause.

One company donated six pallets of rain gear, and R & R Trucking is bringing them to evacuees.

“I think it says a lot about the trucking industry,” McKelvy said.

Just a few weeks ago, McKelvy said, many in Joplin were donating supplies to those hit by a tornado in Alabama in late April.

Now, many people and companies throughout the country have already begun pitching in to help Joplin, McKelvy told Land Line Now.

“Joplin is realizing that there are lots of friends out there,” he said.

Land Line Now Reporter Reed Black contributed to this article.