Archive for Saturday, May 10, 2003

Residents recall storm ‘adventure’

Baby born, livelihood lost, homework destroyed in Thursday’s tornado

May 10, 2003


What's worse than being in the path of a tornado?

Being in labor in the path of a tornado.

Just ask Shannon White, who Thursday night gave birth to Caden Michael.

"It was quite an adventure," she said.

Shortly after checking into Lawrence Memorial Hospital about 7 p.m., White and her husband, Darin White, were rushed to the center of the third floor for protection from the twister that touched down in southwest Lawrence at 7:35 p.m.

Surrounding them were a half-dozen other pregnant women, worried dads-to-be and a double shift of frantic nurses. Meanwhile, White's doctor was unable to get to the hospital.

"It was like ER," Darin said.

White eventually found a little privacy in the doctor's lounge. "There was a TV in there and everyone was watching the TV," she said. "So I was kind of a side story."

But luckily, the storm passed, and the doctor showed up. White was moved to a private room, and Caden was born at 9:10 p.m.

Asked what he expects from a son who entered the world with 150-mph winds, Darin laughed.

"I'm a little bit nervous," he said. "Of course, I can't imagine him being any more hyper than our little girl."

l Tracey Tucker, a self-employed sports collectibles dealer, watched his home and most of his business blow away when his apartment unit suffered a direct hit.

"My apartment has a nice view of the stars now," Tucker said.

He and a friend were working and listening to music about 6:30 Thursday night when Tucker's daughter called him. The tornado was coming, fast.

"My friend walked out on the balcony, when I had a balcony, to see, and said it was coming ... that's when we decided to seek shelter."

Without a basement or an adequate place to ride out the storm, Tucker and his friend ran outside, looking for somewhere to take cover. Fifty yards away was a sub-development, where he saw another man standing outside.

"I yelled to him, 'Do you have a basement?' He said, 'Yeah, hurry, come on in.'"

Tucker and his friend sprinted across the lawn and into the stranger's home. They closed the door less than a minute before the tornado was on top of them. After the storm passed over, he picked his way through debris back to his home.

"I foolishly went back up and just everything was gone ... the roof, the walls," Tucker said.

While many Aberdeen South tenants are struggling with finding a place to stay, Tucker is wondering how he'll piece his livelihood back together. Inside his apartment were thousands of dollars in autographed baseballs, framed photographs and other items.

"Some of the items were in an alcove under the stairs and I know they're fine. But then I had a room full of memorabilia upstairs ... a lot of that's destroyed," Tucker said.

Things are just starting to sink in. Tucker said he was still "in shock" and trying to salvage what he could. Complex managers told him his building probably would have to be demolished, but until then he has been given a temporary apartment in an undamaged unit.

"Once I see what there is that's OK ..." Tucker trailed off. "You just have to take things one day at a time."

l Joel Teply and Amit Kashyap saw eight tornadoes or funnel clouds on Sunday, but they weren't happy with their photos and video.

So they went out again Thursday night, finally catching sight of a tornado near Pomona and following it on country roads toward Lawrence.

It wasn't until they got near the city they realized the twister was headed directly for their neighborhood in southwest Lawrence.

"It was a complete shock," said Teply, 23. "It went from adrenaline and excitement to a sickness. I felt sick to my stomach."

Their houses -- about 100 yards away from each other on Scottsdale Street -- didn't receive damage, though others in the neighborhood did.

l Debra Lee Wastell Hill said Friday, the day after, was a difficult day.

After a night with little sleep, she was helping her daughter, Alyssa Hill, remove a few keepsakes and necessities from her place at Aberdeen South Apartments. It was hot, and firefighters only allowed the family to enter the house when accompanied by emergency workers, and then only for brief periods.

So when Gov. Kathleen Sebelius stopped by to chat, Wastell Hill said it was a welcome break.

"You know you've got friends pitching in and family to take care of your needs," Wastell Hill said. "It was helpful to know the caring goes further than just Lawrence. It gives us perspective. And it's good to hear she would do something to help us."

l "You think this never happens, it can't happen to me," said Leslie Torrez, 23. "Then it happens two doors down."

Torrez left Aberdeen South after she heard on the news the dangerous storms were closing in on Lawrence. From a friend's driveway, she saw the funnel cloud forming.

"I looked up and the clouds were right over me. You could see the funnel and the debris. That's when I got scared and ran inside."

Half an hour later, she went back to her boyfriend's apartment to see how much of his home was still standing.

"I didn't realize it had come so close ... and then I came down and saw apartments just flattened."

Torrez was one of the lucky ones. Her boyfriend's unit suffered no damage and she was allowed to return late Thursday night.

l Tanya Jansen, a senior at Kansas University, also was struggling. Inside her gutted apartment was her computer and her term paper due before she graduates next week. Both were destroyed. To make matters worse, Jansen has finals next week.

"All my books were in there. Firefighters were throwing things out the window this morning ... I don't know what's left," she said.

Jansen visited her apartment Thursday night just long enough to see she couldn't stay there.

"Things look even worse in the daylight," she said Friday.

Jansen said she hoped to salvage most of her belongings and furniture. Most pieces are battered and covered in dust from insulation, but she said she would rebuild.

"I'm going to be all right ... I'm going to take what I can from this and move on," Jansen said.

Most of the people at Aberdeen South consider themselves lucky. Though complex managers were telling insurance officials the apartments suffered more than $3 million in damage, no one was seriously injured in the storm.

"My friend and I are both all right, when one of us could have been killed or in the hospital. ... We're going to be OK," Tracey Tucker said.

¢ The Douglas County Chapter of the American Red Cross is offering vouchers for clothes, toiletries, food and shelter to victims of Thursday night's tornado.

The Red Cross is opening a service center at Wesleyan Church, 3705 Clinton Parkway. Access to the church is by the frontage road that runs between Hartford Avenue and Crossgate Drive. It will be open from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. today and Sunday, and 9 a.m. to 6 a.m. the rest of the week, if needed.

Red Cross officials said the biggest need for victims was cash donations, which can be sent by mail to Douglas County Chapter of the American Red Cross, 2518 Ridge Court, Lawrence 66046. Credit card donations can be made by calling 843-3550 or (800) HELPNOW.

¢ People wanting to make gifts-in-kind to the Salvation Army should call (800) SAL-ARMY. Residents who want to make cash donations to the Salvation Army to benefit Lawrence victims can call 843-4188.

The most-needed items are rakes, shovels, latex gloves, cleaning supplies, and brushes. These items can be brought to the Salvation Army offices at 10th and New Hampshire streets.

¢ Lawrence Parks and Recreation will be picking up limbs and branches in areas damaged by Thursday's storm. Citizens are asked to put broken limbs at the curbside for pickup on Monday or Tuesday.

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