State leaders flew over Lawrence on Monday to view the destruction from Sunday's devastating wind storm, still waiting for a calculation of the damages to see whether the city will qualify for federal disaster assistance.
"This (area) clearly took the brunt of the storm" that also hit Leavenworth and Wyandotte counties, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius said after the flight with Kansas University Chancellor Robert Hemenway and members of the city's legislative delegation.
Damage on campus was calculated at $6 million, which would seem to easily qualify for the $3.2 million-loss threshold to dip into federal coffers, but authorities said other criteria - and a broader assessment of damages across all of Lawrence, due today - would affect the final decision.
"We hope we will pass the FEMA threshold," said Paula Phillips, director of Douglas County Emergency Management.
But cleanup was progressing quickly, with the KU campus reopening today, along with New York School - though Central Junior High will remain closed. By 9:15 p.m. Monday, power had been restored to all but 390 customers, down from a high of 43,000 area homes in the immediate aftermath of the storm.
Westar spokeswoman Karla Olsen said power should be restored to most customers by this morning.
More than 100 city workers were working overtime to aid the cleanup, and volunteers were helping as well.
"There was so much community helping, and real neighborhood cohesion yesterday that there's a lot less that needs to be done today than we had anticipated," said Margaret Perkins-McGuiness, manager of the Roger Hill Volunteer Center.
As for the big question - was Sunday's damage caused by a tornado or microburst? - National Weather Service officials were providing their final answer, with a hedge.
"It's been classified as a microburst," said Paul Frantz, who works in the NWS' Topeka office.
Some witnesses told the Journal-World they saw a funnel cloud hit Lawrence during Sunday's storm. No trained storm-spotters confirmed that view, Frantz said, but the ruling could be changed if the agency receives photographic evidence.
Debris on the ground appeared to have been blown in a straight line consistent with a microburst, he said, rather than the rotating mess left behind by a twister.
And, he said, a strong microburst - like the one that hit Lawrence Sunday - can be more damaging. The winds can be equally strong in both events, but a tornado typically leaves a narrow, if intense, path of destruction.
A microburst, Frantz said, can "be the same damage, same consequences, but it's over a wider area. These winds can be over 100 mph ... and they can pick up debris, which is the dangerous part."
Microbursts, he said, shouldn't be underestimated.
"I think people don't think of it as an impressive weather feature," Frantz said, "but some of them, if you've seen the video, are amazing."
Work to be done
City crews on Monday cleared street debris, then started picking up tree remnants and other wreckage left at curbsides by property owners.
"All of the street department is working on this, more than 50 people in Parks and Rec. ... We've got more than 130 people working on this," said Lisa Patterson, a city spokeswoman.
Parks workers were expected to work extended shifts at least through Wednesday, she said.
Volunteers were also pitching in. Perkins-McGuiness said more than 20 helpers had been placed by her organization.
"I'm really proud of our community," she said. "I was amazed to witness yesterday how people really came together to help their neighbors."
And Pendleton's Country Market, 1445 E. 1850 Road, found itself flooded with as many as 40 helpers - including some from Kansas City - as the owners tried to clean up the mess left behind by two destroyed silos, one flattened barn and a multitude of other damage.
"It was amazing. It was such an outpouring of concern and work," said Karen Pendleton, whose family owns the farm. "I'm really good when I'm working, but when I look up and see somebody, that's when I get teary."
Whom to call for help
Numbers to call for help with the storm's aftermath:
¢ Neighborhood Resources inspectors will work with residents concerned about structural damage to determine whether an inspection is necessary. Call 832-7700.
¢ To report damage to a right-of-way tree, contact Parks and Recreation at 832-3450. The location will be added to the working list, and crews will clean up or trim the tree.
¢ Woody debris can be dropped off at 1901 Wakarusa. For more details, call 832-3123.
¢ Report street signs down to Public Works at 832-3123.
¢ Individuals with general insurance questions should contact the Insurance Commissioner's office at (800) 432-2484.
¢ If property owners are hiring a contractor, they should request a copy of the license or call the City Clerk's office at 832-3308 to confirm the contractor is licensed.
- Source: City of Lawrence
March 12, 2006, Storm
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- 6News video: Tornado sirens ring loud and clear during testing (03-14-06)
- 6News video: State government plans for KU repair cost (03-14-06)
- 6News video: Several Lawrence parks and cemeteries hit hard by storm (03-14-06)
- What does it take to sound sirens? (03-15-06)
- Tuesday's warning was only a test
- Sebelius and Hemenway press conference, part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
- March 12 Storm: Aftermath
- Storm damage
- Reader photos: Storm damage
- Interactive storm damage map