Archive for Wednesday, May 8, 2002

Reminders of tornado fresh for some residents

May 8, 2002

Bryce Ferris saw it coming.

He recalls May 11, 2000, as if it were yesterday.

He was at his neighbor's house.

"When these storms come, we'll sit out in his front yard and watch them come up over Hubbel Hill," Ferris said.

"It got real quiet, real still and then all of a sudden the sky changed colors it was almost a green. The hail started coming."

By the time Ferris tore across the street, the wind was raging.

"It about blew me off the porch and it was there that quick," Ferris said.

The front door jammed.

"You couldn't open it with the compression inside the house," Ferris said. "By the time I got inside the house, that's when the windows were breaking."

At the same time, Chuck Magaha, Leavenworth County's emergency preparedness director, was tracking the storm.

"We were here in the office watching it on the radar, listening to Jefferson County giving us the information as it was trucking this way," Magaha said.

His next communication came from the volunteer storm spotters.

"They said something went through here big and I knew what it was," Magaha said.

Tonganoxie's fire chief clued him in next.

"I was trying to get Charlie Conrad to paint me a picture," Magaha said. "And he painted me a picture of some pretty big information. The roof was off the grade school and by the fairgrounds there was sheet metal all over the place. It put a nasty feeling in my stomach. Everything you planned for, trained for, it's all come together."

Saturday will mark the second anniversary of the May 11, 2000, tornado a tornado that toppled trees, blasted through houses, and ultimately took the life of Kaela Humburg, a 4-year-old from Lawrence, who was fatally injured during the next day's cleanup.

Monday afternoon, as he did on May 11, 2000, Magaha tracked an approaching storm from his office.

He paused to listen to a report a tornado watch targeting the Kansas City area.

"It's for everybody yuck," he said.

He thought of his storm spotters and Sunday night's thunderstorm.

"The volunteers were out last night till after midnight and they're going to be back out there again tonight," Magaha said. "There's quite a set of troopers we've got out there they're definitely worth their weight in gold."

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