Friday marks 20 years since tornado forever changed Haysville

Published: May. 2, 2019 at 6:57 PM CDT
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Trees down, buildings damaged and travel virtually impossible: That was a description of Haysville in the immediate aftermath of an EF-4 tornado that tore through the center of town and into south Wichita.

Friday (May 3) marks the 20th anniversary of the tornado that forever changed the community in south Sedgwick County. On the ground for 24 miles, six people died in the tornado and dozens more were injured. Even more lost their homes or businesses.

Today, Haysville is thriving, but the memories of 20 years ago aren't far away. Form Sedgwick County Commissioner Tim Norton, who was Haysville's mayor on May 3, 1999 revisited the scene recently with Storm Team 12 Meteorologist Merril Teller who tracked the storm that night.

Norton discussed how the tornado changed the direction of his life and his community. While for many, the destruction from the tornado could have been enough to move away and start over in another community, Norton and many others in Haysville knew with hard work, the town would bounce back.

While there was a new "normal" in Haysville with new construction taking the place of what was destroyed, he says most people in the community were resettled and everything rebuilt within a year.

While May 3, 1999 was a dark day for Haysville, Norton says there were moments he described as "miraculous."

"There was a man and his kids in the bathtub with a mattress. That's all that's left of his house. Nobody died over there," Norton says. "Another couple hung on to a refrigerator and the wall behind it was left and the refrigerator and the rest of their house was gone. Just amazing stuff."

Norton designed a park that's become Haysville's center. It's a symbol of how a community came together to quickly come back in the face of devastation.

"I'm not going to wring my hands and worry about it," Norton says. "We're going to move forward and I think it made a difference. I hope it did."