'We're Lucky to Be Here,' Homeowner Sighs

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As Steve Blankenship surveyed the tornado damage to the home he had moved into only eight months ago, he heaved a heavy sigh and tried to stay positive.

"To look at what's gone from my house, with only one little wall between us and the tornado, we're lucky to be here," Blankenship said Sunday night after a twister ripped most of the back wall off his house while he, his three children and his parents huddled in the basement.

Most of the walls of the home were buckled, with nearly all the windows broken, part of the roof gone, and insulation and children's toys tossed around the yard, which was littered with broken trees.

Blankenship's home was one of between 25 and 30 that were destroyed in the small Platte County (search) town of about 400 residents. The town's City Hall and police station also were heavily damaged.

The tornado that hit the suburban Kansas City (search) community was spawned by a storm system moving through northeast Kansas and northwest Missouri Sunday. Dozens died.

After Gov. Bob Holden stopped to view the devastation in Northmoor, town officials began handing out wrist bands to residents and said only those wearing them would be allowed in.

The governor and others had to step around downed power lines, past massive trees that had been torn from the ground and past many other homes with heavy damage to get to Blankenship's backyard.

Blankenship and his family were just sitting down to Sunday dinner when he said an eerie silence descended outside. He went out to look at the sky and saw the storm coming over a hill.

"I thought, wow, that is a dark cloud," he said. "Then I thought, 'Man, that's not a cloud.' I ran inside and grabbed the kids and said 'Everyone get into the basement!'"

The storm ripped his home apart about five minutes later, said Blankenship, who told the governor everyone was fine "but we don't have a place to live anymore." He planned to stay with his parents, whose home just a few doors away escaped damage.

Blankenship's next-door neighbor, Tammy Callendar, looked dazed as she stood in the yard of her heavily damaged home. She moved into the new house with her four children just six weeks ago. She was with her children, her boyfriend, Charles Tholl, and her sister's child when the storm hit.

They rushed to a closet under a stairwell after Tholl came running in from outside to warn them. He held on "with all my strength" to a door while the tornado did its damage.

They came out to find the home's roof nearly gone, with the back wall of the house and the garage destroyed. Inside, the house "looks like a bomb went off," Tholl said.

Callendar said she had sent her children to stay with relatives, but she planned to stay in the home Sunday night and "try to figure out what we do now."

Holden congratulated her, Blankenship and others in Northmoor for knowing what to do and protecting their families during the storm. He pledged the state would work hard to help them recover.

"It's amazing that anything is left of these houses," the governor said.