Gov. Colyer tours tornado damaged Eureka

EUREKA, Kan. For the latest coverage from Eureka, click here.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

A town hall meeting will be held on Friday at 7 p.m. at the Matt Samuels Community Building to discuss debris clean up, unmet needs and what residents should expect over the next few days. Dinner will also be served.
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9:10 p.m.

Gov. Jeff Colyer arrived in Eureka Wednesday evening to tour storm damage around town.

The governor issued a disaster declaration Tuesday night that helps resources quickly move into the needed area.

He said the resourced are already helping people across the community and surrounding counties clean up.

"How the communities are coming together is really amazing," said Colyer. "They're telling us they've already started on cleanup, trying to deal with the electrical piece finding a place for people to stay - the basic needs. They're really getting on top of it."

The Kansas Division of Emergency Management said the Kansas Task Force provided search and rescue capabilities overnight and until 11 a.m. on Wednesday. Mutual aid was provided by Butler, Coffey and Lyon Counties.

Verizon Wireless has deployed their COLT (Cell On Light Trucks) which will be operational on Thursday. This means cell service should improve for residents and emergency crews in the area.

Westar Energy reports 2,800 customers are still without power, but the company says it hopes to have power to all customers by Thursday night.

Those who wish to volunteer in the Eureka storm damage clean-up effort are asked to report to the Matt Samuels Community Building at 7 a.m.

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5:53 p.m.

Greenwood County Sheriff Heath Samuels said he hopes to begin a massive clean-up effort in Eureka on Thursday.

Samuels said volunteers should meet at the Matt Samuels Community Building, 101 N. Jefferson, around 9 a.m. They will be bussed to the part of the town that was struck by an EF-3 tornado Tuesday night.

Samuels said volunteers are needed mainly to clean up tree debris. He said those wanting to help should come prepared with gloves, safety glasses, boots, jeans and rakes.

Samuels said contractors who wish to volunteer are welcome, but anyone out soliciting business will be shut down.

"If they're with a tree company, and they're expecting to go out and try to solicit business, we're not allowing them in that area. We're simply doing volunteer at this point and time," he said.

Samuels also asked residents to patient with the clean-up process.

"Be patient be calm. We'll get more volunteers tomorrow. Just give us a little bit of time and allow us to work at our pace," he said.

Samuels said Westar Energy has worked hard to restore power and hopes to have most of back on by Thursday night. He said River Street to 7th Street, west of Jefferson, all the way to Mulberry and 2nd to 3rd Streets remains closed while power crews work on restoration.

Samuels reiterated the damage and injury report stating 78 homes were damaged, 12 are not liveable and 10 were destroyed. Eight people were hurt in the storm. Samuels said most of them had been treated and released, but at least one had to be transported out the county for treatment.

He said despite being a law enforcement official, having been hit by a tornado within two years is still hard.

"To me, it's another day's work, but on the flip side, this is my hometown. So, it hurts me to see my residents have to go through this," said Samuels.

Samuels said he had not heard of any heat-related injuries, but with the heat indices reaching triple digits, he encouraged those without power to drink plenty of water, take breaks and stay cool. He said he hoped to have cooling stations available for volunteers as they work around town on Thursday.

The public library, 606 N. Main, has power for those in need of a place to cool off or public restrooms.

The American Red Cross has setup a shelter and cooling station at the United Methodist Church, 521 N. Main. Cots and replacement medication are available.

As for the elderly, or people who don't want to leave there home, Samuels said special arrangements have been made to check on them. The Greenwood County Hospital, 100 W. 16th, also has replacement oxygen tanks for those in need.

The community building providing free dinner at 6 p.m. and breakfast on Thursday at 6:30 a.m.

Free tentanus shots are available at the Greenwood County Health Department, 200 W. 1st St., from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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4:15 p.m.

The Greenwood County Sheriff's Office is holding a 4:30 p.m. briefing to provide updates on clean-up and damage-assessment efforts in Eureka. You can watch that briefing live in the window below:

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4 p.m.

We're getting a better picture of the scope of Tuesday's EF-3 tornado that hit Eureka. The tornado was on the ground for six minutes, touching down at 7:18 and ascending at 7:24 p.m. The tornado covered a path of 2.07 miles, had a max width of 250 yards and a max wind speed of 152 mph.

Westar Energy says 2,895 customers are still without power. The American Red Cross shelter remains open at the Methodist church in the 500 block of North Main Street. the Red Cross is providing a cooling station for residents, the Kansas Adjutant General's Office says.

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3:40 p.m.

The National Weather Service says the tornado that hit Eureka Tuesday night was rated as an EF-3.

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3:15 p.m.

Greenwood County Emergency Management says volunteers in Eureka can begin cleanup in all areas of town starting at 7 a.m. tomorrow (Thursday). Volunteers need to check in at the Matt Samuels Community Building at 100 N. Jefferson Street before starting.

The Greenwood County Sheriff's Office posted the debris removal guidelines for homeowners below.

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3 p.m.

Thousands remain without power in the Eureka area, but as a massive cleanup effort begins, there are silver linings in the clouds.

Bill Bider, director of Wast Management for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment says he'd put the tree damage he's seen in Eureka "up there with some of the worst."

"But the house damage is more limited," he says.

Wednesday afternoon, Greenwood County Sheriff Heath Samules said 78 homes were damaged. Of those, 12 are unlivable and 10 were destroyed. It's a situation that could have been much worse, the sheriff says.

"I would put it on the low end," Bider says.


Tuesday's tornado in Eureka is the second to leave widespread damage in town in less than two years. The town also took a direct hit in July 2016 when more than 90 homes were damaged.

Among the homeowners affected by Tuesday night's tornado is Catherine Foth.

She says her husband came home from work early Tuesday evening and they were prepared for the rain, but not for the force that came with it.

"We could hear the storm coming and honestly, we though it was just another thunderstorm," Foth says. "And then the sirens went off."

Foth says the tornado didn't last more than about a minute, "but situations like that, it feels like forever."

Foth says neighbors lost their homes.

"It's just devastating," she says. "You almost can't breathe."

As its been through a situation like Tuesday before in recent years, people in Eureka know clean up can take weeks, months or even years. An example of this is a construction crew in the process of building apartments for the community that lost housing in the July 2016 tornado.

Workers say Tuesday night's tornado did not damage the apartments under construction. The crew says they when they head about the tornado coming through. When they arrived to the site Wednesday morning, their work still stood strong.

The crew says the apartments are funded by the state to help the community after the last tornado.

"Hopefully, we will be able to help out the community by going back with new projects and cleaning up some of the damage," says Zeb LaClef with Wheatland Construction. "That's part of our plan for (Thursday) is to help the community clean up and maybe secure some of the open homes, damaged windows and roofs."

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12:30 p.m.

Greenwood County Sheriff Heath Samuels says a check of 303 houses in the area most heavily impacted by Tuesday night's tornado in Eureka found 78 damaged. Of those, 12 are not livable and 10 are destroyed, the sheriff says.

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11:20 a.m.

Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer says he will be visiting Eureka later today (Wednesday) to survey damage from Tuesday night's tornado.

Tuesday night, the governor's office issued a disaster declaration for the city.

"Please keep all those impacted by the storm in your prayers," Colyer says.

Meanwhile, the Greenwood County Sheriff's Office says people displaced by Tuesday night's tornado can return home, only if necessary. People can return by foot traffic only. the sheriff's office says people returning to their homes must be vigilant for live power lines, leave vehicles in a safe location and must not start cleanup.

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10:30 a.m.

The Greenwood County Sheriff's Office asks people volunteering with the cleanup from Tuesday night's Eureka tornado to check in at noon at the Matt Samuels Community Building at 100 N. Jefferson Street.

However, people who are not in town and want to help are advised to hold off on driving to Eureka as crews are still in the process of assessing damage.

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9:30 a.m.

Eight people are hurt after a tornado touched down in Eureka Tuesday evening.

The high school, along with a number of homes and businesses were damaged. There is a great deal of debris, along with downed power lines and trees around the area.

At this time, crews DO NOT WANT VOLUNTEERS TO ASSIST IN CLEAN UP EFFORTS. We will update you when this changes.

Westar Energy reports around 3,500 customers are still without power.

The American Red Cross has a shelter open at the Methodist Church, 521 N. Main Street, which will also serve as a cooling station for residents.
The Red Cross will be conducting responder feeding operations and Operation BBQ will provide mobile canteens on site.

The American Red Cross is asking anyone affected by the tornado to register here:Safe and Well Website or call 1-800-RED CROSS.

The Safe and Well website can also be used to check on family members in the affected area.

Kansas Emergency Officials have deployed the following assets to assist in cleanup efforts:
*Three KDEM Public Assistance representatives to assist with damage assessments
*One Kansas Department of Health and Environment representative to assist with debris management
*A Geographic Information System vehicle to assist with mapping of the damage
*An Emergency Operations Center Support Team
*An Incident Management Team
*A Regional coordinator to support the incident command team and county emergency management

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6:15 a.m.
Several units spent the night going through the town of Eureka, searching and marking buildings.

Governor Colyer has declared a State of Emergency for Eureka.

Five people were hurt in the tornado, one of them critically.

We have several crews in Eureka to cover the aftermath of the storm, watch Eyewitness News This Morning on KWCH 12 until 7:00 a.m. and then on KSCW from 7:00 until 9:00 a.m.

SHELTERS
If you have been displaced by the tornado, or are in need of shelter, you can call 211 for assistance.

The American Red Cross has two shelters opened for displaced residents in Eureka:
*Methodist Church, 521 N. Main Street
*New Life Assembly of God, 1201 North Main

VOLUNTEERS
If you wish to help with tornado cleanup, you can check in a the Matt Samuels Community Building at 100 N. Jefferson in Eureka at noon today.

CLEANUP & SAFETY
Greenwood County Emergency Management says if you've been injured - or become injured - by tornado debris, stop by the Greenwood County Health Department to receive a Tetanus shot.

They're open from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. and they are located at at 200 W 1st in Eureka.

DANGEROUS HEAT CONDITIONS are expected in central and eastern Kansas, including Eureka. Be sure to drink plenty of water if you need to be outside for an extended period of time.

Greenwood County Emergency Management says a cooling station is available today for residents and volunteers at the Methodist Church located at 521 N Main.

ROAD CLOSURES
The Kansas Highway Patrol has REOPENED US 54 near Eureka, it was closed overnight.

However, the City of Eureka is still closed to traffic.

POWER OUTAGES
As of 5:00 a.m. Wednesday, 2700 customers are without power in Greenwood County. That's more than half of the customers served by Westar in that county.

Westar says crews are working to assess damage and restore service, but have no updates on when service will be restored.

Customers can receive text updates on the outages by texting "REG" to 97827.

You call also track outages here: Westar Outage Map

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Tuesday, June 26, 2018

An active night for severe weather in Kansas saw much of south central Kansas impacted by strong to severe storms. As the strongest remaining storms began to weaken in Sedgwick County late Tuesday night, the focus remains on Eureka, where daylight will reveal the extent of damage from a tornado that left thousands without power and at least five injured, one critically.

Late Tuesday night, the adjutant general's office says the Kansas Division of Emergency Management asks people wanting to help with cleanup and recovery efforts in Eureka to stay away from town for now.

“We know that their hearts are in the right place,” says Angee Morgan, deputy director of KDEM, “And there will probably be opportunities for people to volunteer, but right now, we need to let the professionals do their jobs, assessing the situation to see what is needed and where it is needed. Though well-intentioned, too many untrained volunteers rushing in can create problems.”

The adjutant general says a main reason people are asked to avoid the area is because of hazards from debris including weakened and damaged trees and downed power lines.

"As the situation is assessed, emergency coordinators will have a clearer picture of what is needed and will ask for trained volunteers and additional supplies, as needed," the adjutant general's office says.

Morgan says the best way people can help is to make money donations to established volunteer organizations such as the American Red Cross, Harvesters, the Salvation Army or the United Way.

To relive how storms impacting Eureka, Greenwood County and other parts of Kansas developed, strengthened and advanced, follow Tuesday night's updates below:

10:35 p.m.

The Greenwood County Sheriff's Office and emergency management says Tuesday evening's tornado happened in a matter of minutes from when clouds started to lower.

Emergency sirens were activated, but the tornado developed quickly and people had little time to take shelter. The preliminary assessment shows damage to more than 100 blocks because of the tornado.

The sheriff's office says five people were injured, one critically. First responders continue searching properties to make sure there's no one else injured or trapped.

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10:20 p.m.

The strongest storm in Kansas is west of Wichita and is moving slowly, necessitating a flood warning for Sedgwick County.

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10:15 p.m.

The adjutant general's office provides an update on the situation in Eureka as crews assess extensive damage.

The Kansas Department of Transportation has closed Highway 54 from mile marker 287 to mile marker 266.

About 5,700 Westar Energy customers are without power.

"State agencies that are represented in the State Emergency Operations Center include the Kansas Division of Emergency Management, the Kansas National Guard, Kansas Department of Transportation, Kansas Highway Patrol, Kansas Department of Health and Environment, Fire Marshal and Department of Children and Family Services," the adjutant general's office says.

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10 p.m.

There are indications of large hail moving through Wichita (one to two inches in diameter) with storms moving through the area. We've also had periodic reports of clouds lowering west of Wichita. This storm also has heavy rain and winds of about 50 mph.

There have been reports of wall clouds and funnels, but no tornadoes with storms in Sedgwick County.

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9:40 p.m.

A representative with the adjutant general's office says Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer has issued a disaster declaration after a tornado hit Eureka and left thousands without power.

Jane Welch with the adjutant general's office says the shelter at Eureka's Methodist Church will be operational tonight. She says the governor's declaration ensures plenty of resources are immediately available. There is no need for volunteers at this time and people should avoid the area, the Greenwood County emergency manager says.

Welch says state agencies are in the beginning stages of assessing the damage in Eureka.

"We know it's substantial," Welch says.

Westar Energy says its crews would also work throughout the night to assess damage.

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9:20 p.m.

Storm Team 12 says there are reports of a rotating wall cloud northwest of Maize and northeast of Andale. At this time, there is no tornado warning associated with this storm.

Farther north, a possible funnel cloud was reported in the Bentley area.

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9:10 p.m.

Our crew on the west end of Eureka reports from a neighborhood where yards on a block are littered with debris.

More than 4,000 people are without power in Greenwood County.

Residents say they didn't have much time to seek shelter before the tornado blew through town.

Laura Brewbacker says she watched the storm come in from her front porch.

"The wind started rip-roaring around and I could hear something that sounded like a train. I couldn't see anything. It was gray. And I knew it was time to take cover, so I tried to bolt the door."

Brewbacker says she took cover with her dog and cat in her storm shelter as she heard windows breaking in her home.

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9 p.m.

The state's lone tornado warning in southern Butler County is set to expire at 9:15 p.m. At this time, there are no reports of wall clouds nor funnels. This storm is slowly drifting southeast at 10 to 15 mph. Winds gusting over 60 mph and hail of more than one inch in diameter are the main threats.

A severe thunderstorm warning continues in northern Sedgwick County. This storm moving southeast at about 20 mph includes smaller hail and wind gusts of about 50 mph.

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8:45 p.m.

We're hearing reports of damage from strong winds in Douglass. This damage includes down power lines. A new severe thunderstorm warning is issued for southern Harvey and northern Sedgwick counties until at least 9 p.m.

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8:35 p.m.

Our crew in Eureka is getting a look at damage left from a tornado that hit the town. This damage includes down trees and power lines, as well as heavy structural damage.

Among structures damaged are homes and businesses including a tire store that collapsed. A Greenwood County Sheriff's deputy tells us the tornado went "straight through the center of town."

That deputy says he's heard reports of just one injury.

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8:30 p.m.

A tornado warning is in effect for the southern Butler County until at least 9:15 p.m. An area of circulation was spotted near Rose Hill. This warning includes Douglass and areas south of Highway 400.

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8:05 p.m.

Greenwood County Emergency Management reports the city of Eureka took "a direct hit" from this evening's tornado.

There is a shelter at the Methodist Church in Eureka. Emergency management says the area is not safe as power lines are down.


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8 p.m.

Severe thunderstorms continue to impact areas in east Wichita and Butler County. Large hail is a main threat, including hailstones of more than one inch in diameter reported in Andover.

There were also reports of damaging hail in east Wichita.

From Andover through Augusta to Leon and from El Dorado south, dangerous storms continue to pose threats with large hail and potentially-damaging winds. About tennis-ball-sized hail was reported in El Dorado.

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7:40 p.m.

The tornado warning for Greenwood County is allowed to expire. We have crews headed to the Eureka area to follow reports of damage.

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7:35 p.m.

A tornado-producing storm that impacted the Eureka area has passed east of town and the rotation is starting to fall apart.

The tornado warning for Greenwood County remains in effect until 8 p.m. The tornado warning for Butler County expired. The threats in the El Dorado area remain strong winds and hail.

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7:30 p.m.

Storms east of Wichita come with tornado threats impacting parts of Butler County and the Eureka area of Greenwood County.

A tornado that touched down in Greenwood County left reports of damage in Eureka.

Previously, a brief rope tornado was reported northwest of El Dorado.