A charred foundation, gnarled trees and piles of metal siding are all that remain on Scott Howard’s property, northwest of Eureka, Kansas.
His 9½ acres suffered some of the worst damage of EF3 and EF2 tornadoes that hit Greenwood County on the night of July 7.
“The tornado came in and turned the house into toothpicks,” Howard said. “Threw everything everywhere all over my property and other people’s property.”
Among the first to arrive at the scene was the Great Plains Disaster Response ministry. Wearing neon green T-shirts, volunteers from across Kansas and Nebraska pitched in to help Howard, as well as those in Eureka, a city of 2,500 southeast of Wichita.
“These guys are awesome,” Howard, a retired motel building contractor, said of the crew working on his property. “I’ve had more strangers show up to help me than you might think. It’s very nice. It’s good to realize that not everybody’s concerned with everything else in the world.”
The crew from the Great Plains, led by the Rev. Hollie Tapley, disaster response coordinator for the Great Plains Conference, remained a constant presence on the property for the rest of the month.
“I was thinking it would be six or seven months – or maybe the rest of my life – cleaning this up,” said Howard, who has another house in New Mexico and was uncertain at the end of July what his plans might be.
“It was depressing losing (the house), but it was also depressing looking forward to the future,” he added. “These guys … really helped me out a lot, shaved months and months off of my work.”
In the first days after the tornado, Tapley and the Disaster Response ministry were in town helping tarp roofs, passing out water, Gatorade and snacks and providing emotional and spiritual care to many of the 33 homeowners who suffered damage to their property.
The two tornadoes hit 168 homes. Of those, 34 were destroyed, 24 suffered major damage, 40 minor damage and 71 others were affected in some way.
Among the first homeowners Tapley met was Howard.
How To HelpThose who want to help can contribute financially to the efforts in Eureka and in other places of need. Mail contributions to the Great Plains Disaster Relief Fund, P.O. Box 4187, Topeka, KS 66604.