Twisters destroy homes in Kansas

BY STEVE GUST | PARSONS, KS | April 21, 2000

PARSONS, KS (April 21, 2000) -- Damage figures are rising in rural

southeast Kansas as assessment teams continue to comb the areas where

several tornadoes touched down Wednesday evening.

In the hardest-hit town of Parsons, at least 47 homes or businesses were

destroyed, 100 more have major damage, and 85 have minor damage,

according to preliminary assessments by the Kansas Emergency Management

Agency. Those numbers are likely to rise, emergency officials reported.

Parts of Parsons have been reduced to rubble, and the streets are still

littered with twisted siding and roofing, tree limbs, and shattered glass.

The towns of Walnut, Erie, and Cherryvale also sustained significant


More than 25 residents were injured by flying debris, mostly in

Parsons, said Joy Moser, public affairs officer for the

Kansas Division of Emergency Management Department.

Gov. Bill Graves declared a state of emergency for Labette, Neosho,

Montgomery, and Crawford counties Thursday.

The Parsons judicial center and police department building

were damaged. Though the Parsons 911 center was disabled during the

storm, emergency calls were successfully routed to alternate centers in

surrounding communities.

Twelve teams of inspectors from the International Conference of Building

Officials (ICBO) were still in Parsons conducting damage assessments

on Friday. The ICBO deploys technical engineers who assess the stability

of various structures.

One shelter was opened Wednesday night in Parsons, housing 75 people. The

town has a population of about 13,000.

Faith-based and voluntary groups are still assessing damages. Volunteers

from Adventist Community Services (ACS) were on site and have been asked

by county emergency management officials to manage donated goods that

began arriving Friday. ACS has located three warehouses in Parsons to

house the relief supplies.

Week of Compassion, a giving program coordinated through the Christian

Church (Disciples of Christ) rushed emergency grants to its local

churches so they can respond to immediate needs within their

congregations and within the community at large. Methodist officials

reported they have also been in touch with local churches to assess

damages and respond as needed.

The Salvation Army and American Red Cross helped meet emergency needs

in Parsons.

The National Weather Service was able to issue warnings approximately

10-15 minutes ahead of time giving residents time to take shelter.

Local officials are saying early warnings helped minimize the number

of injuries.

For many residents in the state, this week's twisters brought back

the horror of a huge tornado that struck last May, destroying 1,000

homes and damaging another 2,500.

A continuing line of severe weather also spawned a tornado that touched

down Thursday in Illinois, and high winds were reported in Ohio as well.

Updated April 21, 2000

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