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Deadly tornadoes devastate multiple states

Kansas, Missouri and Tennessee were the hardest-hit targets of a swarm of tornadoes.

BY SUSAN KIM | KANSAS CITY, Kan. | May 4, 2003

Kansas, Missouri and Tennessee were the hardest-hit targets of a swarm of tornadoes and severe storms that have devastated the Midwest, killing at least 30 people and destroying scores of homes.

Even residents accustomed to living in "tornado alley" said they'd never seen anything like the twisters that wrecked their surroundings. Church World Service (CWS) was sending representatives to both Kansas and Missouri to help local churches coordinate their response.

States of emergency have been declared in several counties in Kansas, Missouri and Tennessee.

CWS reported at least 30 people were killed 12 deaths in

Missouri, seven in Kansas and 11 in Tennessee.

"It is likely that all three states will receive federal disaster

declarations as damage assessments continue to unfold across the region," reported CWS.

Four tornadoes swarmed Kansas Sunday, the most powerful hitting the Kansas City area, leaving heavy damage in a swath that stretches from Leavenworth and Wyandotte counties in Kansas, into Platte and Clay counties in Missouri, according to Kansas City emergency management reports.

The largest tornado 500 yards wide initially touched down west of Bonner Springs in Leavenworth County, Kan, about 3:30 p.m. Sunday, confirmed Lynn Maximuk a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

It then moved through Leavenworth and Wyandotte counties and into Platte and Clay counties in Missouri, leaving a quarter-mile wide swath of destruction in some areas.

At least one subdivision in Leavenworth, Kan. was virtually flattened. Wyandotte County in that state also sustained heavy damage, with dozens of homes destroyed or damaged.

At least one-third of the southeast Kansas town of Franklin was wiped out, said Eldon Bedene, Crawford County emergency management director.

The entire community of Pierce City, Mo. saw either destruction or damage, according to reports from Missouri emergency management.

The Pierce City United Church of Christ (UCC) sanctuary was all but destroyed, said Bryan Crousore, who represents the UCC's national disaster ministries network. "They lost the steeple, the roof and the stained glass windows, and one wall had to be pulled down."

Crousore said he had been in contact with CWS and with other UCC representatives.

According to the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), Lawrence County, Mo. is reporting that up to a dozen people may have lost their lives when a powerful twister tore through the area. By early Monday morning, the tornado death count was at more than 80 over a several state area. West and northwestern suburbs of Kansas City were hit especially hard hit.

UMCOR was making contacts in the affected areas Monday as damage assessment began.

In Parkville, Mo., an industrial park was destroyed, and all roads leading into that city were closed Sunday evening. Heavy damage was also reported in the community of Riverside, Mo.

In Northmoor, a small town in Platte County, Mo., some 25 to 30 homes were damaged or destroyed.

Tennessee's worst damage was in Madison County, in and around the city of Jackson, according to emergency management reports.

Police officials in Madison County said that, by midmorning Monday, it was still impossible to assess damage because so much debris blocked roadways.

Nebraska also saw several tornadoes touch down Sunday, and damage was still being assessed in that state, and in Arkansas, South Dakota and Kentucky as well.

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