Drone video of tornado damage in Eureka, Kansas
Kayte Hamilton never heard a siren. But she heard the wind, and something just felt off.
She looked out of her front living room window — and trees were flying. She grabbed her mom and 11-year-old son and ran to the hallway where they hid as a tornado touched down in Eureka just before 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
“It was just like you would see on the 'Wizard of Oz,'" she said, taking a break from cleaning up the damage on Wednesday morning. “Part of our roof is in the neighbor’s tree.”
A dumpster from a nearby business landed in her backyard. Some family members are in a hospital in Wichita. They're two of eight people with injuries.
She doesn’t know their condition.
For now, Hamilton is just thankful.
A few blocks away, houses were destroyed, she said. Closed roads and downed power lines prevented Eagle reporters from getting to what was called the worst of the damage — but drone footage shows a picture of homes with no roofs, debris strewn across lawns and destroyed garages just southwest of the high school, near 7th and Jefferson.
The track at the school — called “Tornado Alley” — was littered with debris. Eureka High's nickname is the Tornadoes.
The damage path as shown from the sky might explain why residents on the west side of Main, like Hamilton, never heard a siren.
“It came with no warning,” Hamilton said, and it was over just as fast. “I said God was with us.”
Sheriff Heath Samuels said a surveying team checked 303 homes along the damage path. Of those, 78 were damaged, 12 were not livable and 10 were totaled.
The path of Tuesday’s tornado “essentially makes an X” over the path from the tornado that hit Eureka two years ago, Samuels said.
The National Weather Service said the twister was an EF-3 with winds of at least 136 mph.
Hamilton's son, Korbin, said volunteers were coming together to help. About every two hours someone showed up on their front lawn to make sure they have everything they need.
Almost every residential road along River on either side of Main was closed to traffic. Looking down the side streets, you saw people cleaning up their yard. Or their neighbor’s. Trees were down in almost every yard.
A block from the Hamilton home, employees of Sonic were cleaning up damage to the restaurant as they avoided downed power lines.
The owners of the Sunflower Flea Market on Main boarded up broken windows.
A few people downtown didn’t want to talk about what happened just over 12 hours earlier.
“We’re still shaken up,” one woman said as she used a kitchen broom and dustpan to collect broken glass in the middle of the road.
By 11 a.m., as the temperature slowly crept up and the humidity made the moisture in the air cling to skin, roads were beginning to show signs of being cleared. Sticks and trees piled up in people’s front yards. At First and Main, one tree laid on its side, completely uprooted. It traveled several feet from where it once grew.
Shelter is still available at the Methodist Church.
The Greenwood County emergency management director reported to the National Weather Service at 7:21 p.m. that a tornado was on the ground producing structural damage and uprooting trees in Eureka, which is about 65 miles east of Wichita.
"Eureka sustained a direct hit from a tornado," Greenwood County Emergency Management tweeted. "Shelter at Methodist Church. No volunteers are needed right now. The area has power lines down and is not safe."
Gov. Jeff Colyer issued a state of disaster emergency proclamation at 8:33 p.m. declaring a local disaster in Greenwood County, the Kansas Army National Guard said.
A surveyer from the National Weather Service in Wichita is in Eureka.