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June 1, 2003 Lutheran Disaster Response
Contact Information:
Lutheran Disaster Response
8765 W. Higgins Rd
Chicago, IL 60631
Phone: 773-380-2822
FAX: 773-380-2493

Midwest Tornadoes: Kansas Update

Dear friends in Christ,

Clean-up and relief efforts continue throughout the Midwest and Southeast, as additional severe spring weather adds tornadoes and floods to previously affected communities. In my last report I shared with you an update from Larry Gustafason (LDR-Missouri), where Lutheran Child and Family Services (Alan Erdman, President) is managing the widespread Missouri response.

Today I want to share an update from Christine Iverson (LDR-Kansas), where Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska (Ruth Henrichs, President) is managing the Kansas efforts.

<<<<<<<<<<<<<< Christine writes >>>>>>>>>>>>

By now, both the southeast and southwest corners of Kansas have been hit hard by tornadoes. The major areas of concern are in the Kansas City, Kansas, area, southeast Kansas, and southwest around Kismet and Liberal. The Red Cross statistics so fare indicate over 1,253 houses affected.

However, those statistics have been shown to be low compared to actual damage, especially in rural areas. In Crawford county, the list of 38 houses with "major to destroyed" damage came up for discussion. Was that all the total of affected houses? A person from the sheriff's department said that didn't include any homes with "minor" damage. When asked to define "minor" damage, he said, "Well, there was a home with a motorboat through the living room window. That was minor. It didn't make it to the list." One of the tornadoes in Cherokee County was on the ground for 26 miles, destroying houses and farms. In Crawford County a tornado was on the ground for 16 miles. The small village of Ringo had 38 of its 40 homes destroyed. The town of Franklin was about 80% destroyed (with well over 100 houses gone), and the small town of Mulberry was also similarly affected. These are the areas where most of the storm- related deaths occurred in Kansas.

The counties in southwest Kansas hit by a May 15th tornado have also been added to the Federal disaster declaration. Over the weekend concern has surfaced for the many undocumented families brought in by the area meat packing industry. It is estimated that 200-300 families have been affected. Many of them live in mobile homes and received the most damage and loss. Language and cultural barriers, and fear of INS involvement, are impairing efforts to help those affected. It is important for people to know that they can register and receive disaster help without the INS being notified or involved in any way. Long-term recovery for the area will need involved Lutheran and interfaith efforts to reach all members of the communities affected by the disaster. No one deserves a disaster and everyone needs help to recover.

In Carl Junction the United Methodist church choir was meeting for rehearsal when the storm hit. A woman got a tornado warning call on her cell phone. They went outside. Many wanted to get in their cars and go home for shelter (the church had no basement). They watched the tornado come up the hill at them. Bob Simon directed everyone into the inner restrooms for shelter. As the tornado hit the building, a four year-old yelled out, "Lord God, you can take me to heaven, but I don't want to die!" The church was destroyed, but blessedly, no one inside was hurt.

The amount of counties and the area involved - and storms that continue to hit the same areas - have complicated efforts for response. But the Church is involved for the long haul. Into the midst of death and disaster, the Church brings the message of hope as we work together towards recovery.


To volunteer in southeast Kansas, call 1-800-489-8183
To volunteer in the Carl Junction and Smithfield area, call Pat Smith, 417-649-6062 (fire dept.) or 417-623-7541 (home).

Send your financial support to:

ELCA DOMESTIC Disaster Response - "Midwest Tornadoes"
PO Box 71764
Chicago, Illinois 60694-1764

Credit card gift line: 1-800-638-3522
Credit card gifts via the web

LC-MS World Relief and Human Care -"Midwest Tornadoes"
P.O. Box 66861
St. Louis, MO 63166-9810

Credit card gift line: 1-888-930-4438

Yours in Christ,

Gil Furst

Gilbert B. Furst (written on Sunday, June 1, 2003, at 1:10 p.m.). Director for ELCA Domestic Disaster Response (Division for Church in Society) and Lutheran Disaster Response (a cooperative ministry of the ELCA and LC-MS) 8765 W. Higgins Rd., Chicago 60631 PHONE: 773-380-2822 FAX: 773-380-2493 Please visit our new website