Brownback Tours Kan. Town Struck By Tornado - KCTV5 News

Brownback Tours Kan. Town Struck By Tornado

The twister that touched down in Reading destroyed almost the entire town, and some now worry that the town could cease to exist.
By Monday morning, as Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback walked through the vestiges of the small town, residents were out cutting limbs and moving possessions. That was the good news. All but one person survived the storm, and most of the survivors were soldiering on.
"When I've toured one of these, it always amazes me the resilience of the human spirit," Brownback reflected. "And you see it here."
One death, he added, was still too many. The man died, residents said, while shielding his wife from the storm, piling on top of her in the bathtub of their mobile home.
It could have been far worse if the town didn't have the warning and response plan they did, residents said.
Brownback explained, "The emergency plan in the area was if you don't have a safe place to go, go to the Methodist Church. The mayor opened it up. People got it. People were saved."
It's something the governor urged all Kansans to think about when their sirens sound. But no amount of planning could prevent the property damage.
Of the 110 homes surveyed, 100 were damaged; 56 of those suffered substantial damage or were destroyed. Of the 21 commercial properties toured, 10 were destroyed, four had substantial damage, and the remaining seven were damaged but usable.
"We are going to need some help," Lyon County Emergency Manager Rick Frevert told the governor. "Because these people didn't have that much."
He was grateful for the governor's disaster declaration but concerned about whether federal funding would follow.
"It's going to be really important that we can come up with some funding so we can rebuild," Frevert said. "Because this town, we just don't want to lose it."
Resident Mark Hanks had worries similar to Frevert's.
"I don't think a lot of people will rebuild," he said.
Hanks said whether he stays depends on how bad the damage estimates are on his house. His family lost both of their barns and some of their livestock.
"We raise meat rabbits and stuff like that and chickens," Hanks said. "We lost a lot of chickens. All the cattle made it through, so we still got something."
But what the town lost was essential: its tiny post office, its only bank and the grain elevator, which was one of the town's main commercial operations. The town's population hovers around 250. Like in many other small towns, that population is aging. Add those elements together, and some are concerned the destruction will spell the end of Reading.
Brownback said he was aware of the town's needs, and would work with the federal government to address at least some of them.
"The mayor said people were concerned about being able to get their checks in the mail, getting the bank going again so they can get their finances in order," Brownback said. "So we will focus on getting those on a temporary basis."
That, however, ranks third on the list of priorities. First are food, water and shelter. That has been handled. Next is debris removal. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment told the governor the nearest landfill was 20 miles in any direction, so they decided to reopen a landfill in town that had been closed for years.
Meanwhile, law enforcement officers are keeping out gawkers and do-gooders alike.
Maj. Gen. Lee Tafanelli, with the Kansas Army National Guard, said he knew many people wanted to volunteer to help, but that the effort had to be organized and controlled. For that reason, volunteers showing up on their own would be turned away. To volunteer, people must coordinate with the United Way by calling 211.
Those wanting to help can also donate cash to the effort. A lot of the homes were not insured.
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