Archive for Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Couple survive big tornadoes 40 years apart

May 30, 2007

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— Guy Edward and Mary Marjean Shuck have been married 48 years and raised three children - and have survived two of the worst tornadoes to hit Kansas in the past four decades.

The couple, known to friends as Ed and Jean, were living in central Topeka in 1966, when a twister roared through the area and damaged their home.

Three years ago, after living in Topeka and Omaha, Neb., the couple decided to retire to the area where they had grown up, moving to Greensburg. Their home and more than 90 percent of the south-central Kansas town of 1,400 were destroyed by a May 4 twister.

The Greensburg storm was an EF-5 tornado, packing winds of up to 205 mph, killing 10 people. The Topeka storm was as powerful, killing 16 people, destroying 800 homes and cutting a swath through the city.

The Shucks are shopping for a new truck and possibly a mobile home, which would give them much-needed "time to think" about whether to rebuild in Greensburg. Jean Shuck likes living in Kansas, despite her experiences with the worst of its spring storms.

"I'd rather live in a country with tornadoes than earthquakes," she said. "As long as you have a safe basement, you can survive almost anything."

The couple, both 67, married in 1959 and settled into a home on a tree-lined street in central Topeka in the 1960s. Their first brush with a massive twister came as the finished dinner on June 8, 1966. They heard tornado sirens.

"Ed rushed the kids and me to the basement," Jean Shuck said, adding her husband went outside to search for the family dog.

Although Ed Shuck failed to get the dog inside, he caught a glimpse of the "big, black wall" approaching their home. He joined his family under a table in the basement.

The Shucks' home was heavily damaged but survived, as did their dog. They fared better than many of their neighbors, some of whom lost even the foundations of their homes, Ed Shuck said.

"I walked out, and for the first time, I could see the Capitol building from our front yard because all of the trees had been destroyed," Jean Shuck said.

After retiring to Greensburg, the Shucks enjoyed a quiet three years, making minor repairs on their home. The storm hit the night of May 4, after Jean Shuck had spent the day cleaning house and planting flowers for summer.

They heard a tornado warning on the radio. Sirens followed shortly after. They retreated to their "hidey hole," a small room in the basement.

When they thought the danger had passed, they went upstairs to survey the damage. Windows were broken and the roof was gone, but they felt lucky the damage wasn't worse.

When they emerged, they found neighbors shouting, armed with flashlights as they looked for friends and family.

"We can replace stuff," Jean Shuck said. "We are just thankful to have survived."

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