Damage assessed in Midwest after deadly tornadoes move through
(3/14/06 - SEDALIA, MO) -- The frozen chicken that Joy Rank had been thawing for dinner was still soaking the next morning in a sink full of water a meal abandoned when Rank watched a scene of terror unfold outside her kitchen window.
A tornado tore through the mobile home park she co-owns Sunday night, flipping over one of six occupied homes and killing a 39-year-old woman inside.
"There's not a lot of damage to the homes people live in," Rank said Monday, crying while sipping coffee in the dim candlelight of her kitchen. But "it really bothered me that a girl had to lose her life."
Early reports show more than 100 twisters touched down in a weekend wave that stretched across five states, from Oklahoma to Illinois. Nine of the ten dead were in Missouri.
"It's just amazing how devastating it is," said Mayor Tim Davlin of the Illinois capital of Springfield. "It looks like the pictures we saw a couple months ago after Katrina."
The violent weather was driven by a powerful low-pressure system over the Midwest that pulled warm air out of the Gulf of Mexico. The same phenomenon caused powerful winds that drove deadly wildfires across Texas over the weekend.
On Monday, a second line of storms raked the region, with rain, hail and fierce wind tearing up trees and homes from Kansas through Indiana.
The weekend storms left four people dead in Renick, a rural community about 30 miles north of Columbia, Mo. The death toll also included a married couple killed when a twister hurled their pickup truck beneath a propane tank about 80 miles south of St. Louis.
Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt declared a state of emergency throughout Missouri, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich declared a disaster in seven counties, and three southern Indiana counties were under states of emergency.
Classes at the University of Kansas in Lawrence were canceled Monday because of the danger of falling debris. University Chancellor Robert Hemenway put the damage at $6 million. Classes were to be held as scheduled Tuesday, though one building was to remained closed and access restricted to three others.
Springfield, Ill., was hit hard twice in 24 hours, first by a tornado late Sunday and then by strong wind early Monday that blew debris through the city. Windows in the Illinois Capitol were blown out, and even the five-story Illinois Emergency Management Agency building lost part of its roof.
National Weather Service meteorologist Ed Shimon said the tornado that ripped through Springfield was part of a storm that spawned about 20 tornadoes on its 400-mile path and was the biggest to pass through central Illinois in a decade.
"To have a storm that actually stays together from all the way west of Kansas City to just south of Chicago is highly unusual," Shimon said.
At a semi-truck dealership in Springfield, skidmarks showed where the winds had shoved the huge trucks across the parking lot. At least 25 trucks each costing between $90,000 to $95,000 were damaged, said employee Bob Earley.
Margaret Friel, one of the property's owners, said tornadoes are just part of living in the Midwest.
"This is life," she said. "Deal with it."
Back in Sedalia, the storm smashed into the homestead of Randy and Sherry Vinson ripping off their home's front door, depositing their Christmas decorations on their lawn, demolishing her tropical greenhouse, flipping over a cargo truck and flattening 20,000 square feet of warehouses for their building supply business.
On Monday, Randy Vinson was trying to reroute trucks due to deliver business supplies while mentally calculating the $1.5 million in damage to his property. The perplexing part to Vinson was what the tornado chose to take and what it left.
Gone was a chain-link fence, steel posts, and the concrete holding them in the ground. But still alive were the freshwater fish in a 55-gallon tank in his living room.
So Vinson hooked up a generator to the fish tank to keep the air filtering through the water.
"It's hard to believe one thing could be completely gone, and yet the fish tank is still sitting there," he said. "I might as well keep them alive. They made it through all of that."
Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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