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Archive for Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Powerful storm injures 14 in Harveyville

February 29, 2012, 9:03 a.m. Updated February 29, 2012, 7:26 p.m.

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Debris from a nearby building hangs over a Wabaunsee County rural fire district truck following a tornado in Harveyville, Kan., Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012, in Harveyville, Kan. The small eastern Kansas town of Harveyville took a direct hit from an apparent tornado late Tuesday, injuring at least 11 people and reducing much of the town to ruins.

Debris from a nearby building hangs over a Wabaunsee County rural fire district truck following a tornado in Harveyville, Kan., Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012, in Harveyville, Kan. The small eastern Kansas town of Harveyville took a direct hit from an apparent tornado late Tuesday, injuring at least 11 people and reducing much of the town to ruins.

Residents walk the streets the morning after severe storms destroyed several homes and businesses in Harveyville, Kan., Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012.

Residents walk the streets the morning after severe storms destroyed several homes and businesses in Harveyville, Kan., Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012.

— Authorities prepared a makeshift landfill Wednesday in Harveyville to handle the debris a day after a tornado damaged about 40 percent of the tiny eastern Kansas town, reducing homes and the community’s United Methodist Church to rubble.

Sharon Watson, a spokeswoman for the state adjutant general, said the storm — which hit just after 9 p.m. Tuesday — injured 14 people in the town of about 250. Eight victims were treated at the scene by EMS personnel, and six were transported to hospitals in Topeka. By midday Wednesday, five had been released, and one remained in critical condition.

The tornado was an EF-2 with winds of 120 mph to 130 mph, state emergency management officials said. It was part of a powerful system that produced multiple reported tornadoes across the Midwest late Tuesday and early Wednesday, killing at least nine people.

Much of the town, which is southwest of Topeka, appeared to be heavily damaged, and Gov. Sam Brownback declared a state of emergency. He planned to tour the community Thursday.

Numerous homes were reduced to rubble, many trees and power lines were down and gas service was out across the city.

Judy Price considered herself and her husband, relatively lucky because their home of nearly 38 years sustained heavy damage but still was standing. Family, neighbors and friends boarded up blown-out windows and cleared away the remains of a destroyed garage and awning for a small porch.

Price, 60, said she had her husband, Clayton, were going to bed early when the storm hit. They rushed into the adjacent bathroom, and she took shelter in a bathtub as “all hell broke loose” for just a few seconds.

“It just happened so fast and was over so fast,” she said. “We’re assessing the damage in the house and we’re thinking, “OK, we’ve got some windows blown out,’ and then I open front door to look out, and I say, ‘Our porch is gone.’”

Authorities discouraged volunteers from coming to help with the cleanup until Thursday, so they could prepare a field east of Main Street to hold the debris.

The Harveyville United Methodist Church, which has been at the same site since 1885, was little more than a mound of debris and rubble Wednesday morning. Its organ, heaved by the storm, lay in a shattered heap across the street.

Pastor Dennis Irwin described his church as vibrant and said it has 111 members.

“We’ll rebuild,” he said. “It’s too much part of the community not to rebuild.”

Irwin said the church basement acts a community storm shelter, but no one had time to get there. The basement had only a few broken light fixtures. He said the church added stained glass windows — now gone — to its worship space about 10 years ago.

“It was a beautiful white country church,” he said. “The church is gone, but the congregation’s not.”

Grant Hill, 42, said the storm blew out a couple windows and damaged his porch. He said his family huddled in a back bedroom because the tornado came too quickly for them to take shelter in their basement, which is only accessible from the outside.

“You basically heard a continuous low rumble of thunder, then all of a sudden stuff started shaking and windows breaking and it felt like the house was going to explode,” he said.

Comments

Abdu Omar 2 years, 1 month ago

I used to live in Harveyville when I was in grad school. It was a great place to live and the people were really good to us and are still friends. I am sorry for their loss and hope that things get back to normal as fast as they can. You are a great bunch of people and I hope the best for this great town.

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mustrun80 2 years, 1 month ago

I drove by Harveyville one time when I was on an expedition in the Flint Hills looking for the elusive midwest prairie liberal. I hadn't seen one for quite some time since leaving lawrence and was beginning to wonder if this was some sort of mythical creature. Then appearing on the horizon I saw a group of hippies engaged in what seemed to be some sort of religious ritual involving candles, a guitar, and a donkey. They said the donkey was their symbol of righteousness, and affiliation with the democrat party. So I guess the midwest prairie liberal does exist. I wanted to take some pictures but they said pictures would capture their soul and that too many fossil fuels were used to manufacture the camera. Hope you all enjoyed my pointless story about Harveyville.

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Mike Ford 2 years, 1 month ago

My wife and I stopped at the Harveyville grocery store on photo trips to the flint hills for snacks and batteries last year. I purchased a wabaunsee county history photo book from Barnes and Noble in Topeka and it showed the old rail lines and old downtowns. We had the tornado sirens here and it was probably the same cell. We were lucky I guess.

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irvan moore 2 years, 1 month ago

when i was a kid the older girl down the street had a boyfriend from Harveyville and he bought a brand new 1962 Ford with a 406 motor and a 4 speed, she was ok, she got him to take me for a ride. they later married and lived near Harveyville, i hope they are ok.

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mustrun80 2 years, 1 month ago

Well we have the internal combustion engine to thank for this.

Hope you're happy Bush.

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