Print This Article The Wichita Eagle Back to web version
Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Tornado cleanup moves into next phase for many

By Beccy Tanner
The Wichita Eagle

Cindy Wood doesn’t dare think too far ahead.

Each day she and her family take another step in cleaning up and moving on.

“We are just trying to put pieces together and find a place to live,” she said Monday, nine days after the tornado ripped away the trailer she and her three children and parents were renting in the Pinaire Mobile Home Park in Oaklawn.

“It is bumpy right now,” she said. “Any place I try and rent is completely out of our price range. Once I stop cleaning up, I’ve got to go to the Salvation Army to see what they can do to help. The Red Cross gave me a little bit to help with replacing Mom and Dad’s meds.”

As the second week of cleanup began, some groups and agencies have scaled back immediate relief efforts and moved into the next phase of their disaster help.

The Small Business Administration announced Monday it would provide low-interest federal disaster loans to Kansas residents and business owners affected by the April 14 storms. The disaster declaration makes SBA assistance available in Sedgwick, Butler, Cowley, Harvey, Kingman, Reno and Sumner Counties.

Beginning at 9 a.m. today, SBA representatives will be available to take loan applications, answer questions about the program or explain the application process. The loans will be available to homeowners, renters, businesses of all sizes and private nonprofit organizations whose property was damaged or destroyed by the disaster.

The center will be located at the Carlton Learning Center, 4900 S. Clifton, and will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday until further notice.

The United Way of the Plains announced Monday it would need fewer volunteers today to allow more waste-disposal trucks to continue to pick up debris. For now, the United Way will monitor daily the need for volunteers, said Delane Butler, the organization’s vice president of marketing.

The American Red Cross, Midway-Kansas Chapter has closed its shelter and fixed feeding site.

“We are working with the people who were affected to find more immediate shelter for them, more transitional and long-term housing,” said James Williams, a Red Cross spokesman. “Now we want to encourage people who have been affected to visit us at the Oaklawn Activity Center where we have caseworkers who will listen to their needs and concerns and put them on a clear path to rebuilding their life and getting back to normal.”

Likewise, the Salvation Army is no longer serving hot meals in the storm afflicted area. However, it is still providing a mobile kitchen that travels the neighborhoods providing sandwiches, water and snacks for volunteers.

“We have gone into another phase because people – those that still have their homes – have their utilities back on,” said Major Douglas Rowland, city commander for the Salvation Army.

The Salvation Army also has caseworkers available at its downtown office at 350 N. Market to interview families to determine immediate and long-term needs.

“The immediate needs have been met, and now we look at the longer term,” Rowland said.

Cleanup continues

On Monday, load after load of cut-up trees was hauled from south Wichita.

More than 500 loads have been taken to Sedgwick County’s designated burn pile in Oaklawn, including nearly 200 truck loads Monday.

“We make progress every day,” says Randy Duncan, Sedgwick County emergency management director.

So how much longer will it be?

“I think it is too soon to tell,” Duncan said.

“One of our public works colleagues gave us a good analogy in trying to guess the amount of debris. It’s like one of those contests where you have a big jar of pennies and you guess how many are inside. You don’t know for sure until you take them out and count. That’s the situation with the debris.”

David Spears, director of Sedgwick County public works, said his department – along with work crews from Derby, Haysville, the Kansas Turnpike Authority, Gypsum Township and Riverside Township – had just hit their stride on Monday.

“Everybody is getting into the rhythm,” Spears said. “I was down there and within five minutes, three trucks came in. Things are really moving today.

“We will work until it is finished … until everything is completed.”

© 2012 Wichita Eagle and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved. http://www.kansas.com