Free State High School was commandeered to serve as an emergency shelter Thursday night after a tornado struck southwest Lawrence, wrecking dozens of homes and apartments.
More than 100 people left homeless by the storm were expected to make use of the emergency shelter, said Brad Finkeldei, president of the board of the Douglas County Chapter of the American Red Cross.
Volunteers were busy late Thursday putting up cots that had been brought in from Shawnee and Wyandotte counties.
"We'll provide a hot breakfast" today, Finkeldei said.
About 25 Red Cross volunteers immediately began working on a preliminary assessment of the tornado's damage. A more detailed assessment will be done today, Finkeldei said.
Preliminary reports showed major damage to 40 houses and six apartment buildings.
"These would be damaged to the extent that people probably would not be able to stay in these buildings," Finkeldei said.
The Free State shelter will remain open as long as it is needed, he said.
Those who need information or help can call 843-3550 or (800) HELP NOW.
Those wanting to help should send cash, Finkeldei said.
"At this point in time ... the basic need is donations. Cash donations," Finkeldei said.
The Red Cross will provide people with vouchers for food and shelter, and the agency will need money to pay for them.
"The cash donations are the biggest assistance," Finkeldei said.
"This is the first large-scale mobilization with our volunteers in at least 20 years. It's a fairly major effort."
|6:38 p.m.: National Weather Service reports a tornado spotted between Osage City and Melvern Lake in Osage County.About 6:40 p.m.: A tornado warning is issued for Shawnee County after radar detects a storm capable of spawning a tornado near Maple Hill.About 6:50 p.m.: Tornado first touches down after crossing U.S. Highway 56 into southwest Douglas County from Osage County. Outbuildings of a farm are damaged.6:57 p.m.: Tornado sirens for Baldwin and southwest Douglas County sound.7:12 p.m.: National Weather Service says radar is showing thunderstorm capable of producing tornadoes about 20 miles west of Ottawa.7:15 p.m.: First reported touchdown in southwest Douglas County. At least three touchdowns were seen in the county.7:16 p.m.: Tornado warning sirens sound in Lawrence.7:34 p.m.: Tornado hits southwest edge of Lawrence.8 p.m.: Tornado warning for Lawrence is lifted.|