Kansas Town Recovers After Deadly Tornado

Troy White, who moved out of his grandfather's house a week ago, couldn't imagine he'd be back a week later, trying to salvage anything he could find out of the shell that remained.

His 80-year-old grandfather, Jack, was hospitalized with a cut shoulder and broken ribs after a tornado cut through a six block-wide, mile-long area Saturday night, killing one man, injuring 28 and causing millions of dollars in damage.

"For the most part, he is pretty shook up, scared, not knowing where the future lies," White said as he worked Sunday.

It was a description befitting the entire town of 2,900 people, about 100 miles northwest of Wichita. Officials estimated some 485 structures were damaged during the storm, about 25 percent of the town.

Hoisington High School lost its auditorium roof and almost every window. Across the street a strip mall was gutted. Gone is the town's only grocery store, along with the local Dairy Queen where several people had taken shelter in a walk-in freezer.

Also heavily damaged was the hospital, where a brand new surgical center opened a week ago.

On Monday, federal emergency officials were to tally the losses and start the process of federal and state emergency assistance.

Meanwhile, the same system that brought the tornado dumped about 5 inches of rain Sunday. Water threatening areas south of the city limits and a major thoroughfare into town was closed.

The one fatality was Gerald Tauscher, 69, who didn't go into the basement of his home with his wife, Joyce, because he believed the warning sirens would sound if a tornado was close. His body was found two hours after the tornado hit, underneath the minivan in their backyard.

All that remained of the Tauschers' home was the empty basement where Joyce Tauscher took shelter. On Sunday, she sobbed and spoke of their 42-year marriage.

"I have nothing," she said. "You just can't comprehend, 42 years of your life is gone."

Other residents spent Sunday picking through the debris that was once their home.

Stacie Basye and Shelby Stone sorted through a mound of shattered glass, splintered wood and roofing pieces. Only two houses remained standing on their residential block.

"We haven't found anything at all," Stone said after nearly an hour's work. Basye added: "He and I don't think we will either."

Basye's eyes welled with tears as a neighbor brought over a muddy page from a photo album showing her niece and nephews.

"That was the worst feeling I've experienced in my life," she said. "You think it happens to other towns, not to you."

Gov. Bill Graves and Rep. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., toured the most devastated areas Sunday.

"We are absolutely struck by the severity of this storm," Graves said. "It is hard to describe how devastated the community is."