Tornado damaged $22M worth of buildings in Douglas County

photo by: John English/Special to the Journal-World

Homes south of Lawrence that were devastated by a tornado on Tuesday, May 28, 2019, are viewed from the air on Wednesday, May 29.

The total value of Douglas County structures damaged by the recent tornado was $22 million, the county said this week.

The Douglas County Appraiser’s Office calculated the figure by totaling the appraised value of all structures damaged by the tornado, whether totally destroyed or less severely damaged, according to county communications specialist Karrey Britt.

Britt said the appraiser’s office tally includes only structures such as homes, barns and garages, not damage to other kinds of property such as vehicles, crops or livestock.

The tornado destroyed 13 homes; caused major damage to 29; caused minor damage to 42; and affected 11 more in the county, according to the most recent count released by Douglas County Emergency Management earlier this month. In addition, two commercial businesses were damaged along with one home office.

On the evening of May 28, the tornado touched down south of Lawrence and mowed through properties northeastward to the county line.

It continued into Leavenworth County, where it finally lifted after being on the ground a total of nearly 32 miles and reaching EF-4 strength, according to the National Weather Service.

The National Weather Service has not yet listed a property damage total for the latest storm, as it has for past storms dating back decades.

The weather service calls its damage totals a “broad estimate” using available data from a variety of sources, from local authorities to weather service property damage surveys.

However, comparing the $22 million figure provided by the county this week with past damage estimates from the National Weather Service shows that the May 28 storm was the second most expensive tornado in Douglas County history.

The June 19, 1981, tornado that injured 33 people and killed one is estimated by the weather service to have caused $25 million in damage. That storm — which hit the city’s Kmart store and a radio station, among other businesses in south Lawrence — is the most expensive storm by far, once adjusted for inflation. In today’s dollars, that storm did a little more than $70 million in damage, using federal inflation numbers. 

Other tornadoes that produced major damages include a May 4, 1977, tornado that did $2.5 million in damage, which totals about $10.5 million in current dollars, and a May 8, 2003, tornado that did $6.4 million in damage, which totals about $8.9 million in today’s dollars. 

— Journal-World editor Chad Lawhorn contributed to this report.

photo by: Sara Shepherd

The remainder of a house on North 1100 Road, south of Lawrence, that was hit by the tornado is pictured on Thursday, May 30, 2019.

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