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Friday, July 11, 2014

May be a week before state damage estimate is in

By Beccy Tanner
The Wichita Eagle

It may be at least a week before the total damage estimate is available from each of the 39 counties affected by Saturday night’s storms.

Once that information is obtained, state officials can determine whether Kansas will qualify for federal assistance, said Sharon Watson, spokeswoman for the Kansas Adjutant General’s Department.

The Kansas Division of Emergency Management will be contacting affected counties to gather information on the amount of damage sustained.

“We’ll be working closely with the county emergency managers to make sure all damages are collected,” said Maj. Gen. Lee Tafanelli, the director of the Kansas Division of Emergency Management and the adjutant general.

Besides Sedgwick County, some of the counties hardest hit include Rice, Edwards and Kiowa counties.

Rice County officials reported several buildings were damaged and debris blocked some minor roads. Four separate tank batteries near Second Avenue and Avenue H were damaged, releasing 50 to 100 gallons of oil into a containment area. The Sheriff’s Office was damaged and the jail roof was blown off; prisoners were transferred to off-site facilities.

“I’ve seen tornadoes since I was a kid,” said Jim Gray, a longtime rancher from Geneseo, cowboy historian and publisher of the Kansas Cowboy newspaper. “But that’s the first one I’ve seen of that size. It touched down on a farmstead directly south of me and took everything, all the buildings are gone except the house. You could just see how that tornado followed the valley and ripped trees to shreds as it went.”

Most of the damage he’s seen out in the county has included destroyed machine sheds and machinery such as combines and tractors.

“Those aren’t cheap,” Gray said. “And, there’s been a lot of lost livestock, cattle out in the pastures that got caught in the storm.”

Once the counties provide the state with damage reports, the Adjutant General’s Office will determine which assistance programs may be available, Watson said.

“All sectors will be looked at — housing, business, agriculture and public sector damages.”

Reach Beccy Tanner at (316) 268-6336 or btanner@wichitaeagle.com

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