Hundreds of Oak Grove residents on Tuesday picked through what was left of their homes, some blown from their foundations, after a tornado that tore through this community in eastern Jackson County the night before.The tornado ripped a seven-mile path through Oak Grove, damaging 483 houses and 12 commercial buildings, officials said at a morning news conference. “There were no fatalities,” said Carl Scarborough, chief of the Sni Valley Protection District. “It looks like the injuries were minimal. Based on some of the damage I’ve seen, it’s rather amazing. “Again, just thanks be to God there were no fatalities.” About 15 injuries were reported, but none was considered life-threatening.
Jackson County Sheriff Mike Sharp said one instance of looting had been reported. “We’re going to have zero tolerance for looting,” Sharp said. “We’re not going to let them be victimized twice.”
Cleanup efforts were underway Tuesday, as utility crews worked on downed power lines. Power was being re-established along Broadway. Access for residents was being controlled until the neighborhoods had electricity. While some felt as if their homes had lurched and moved, the Harmons’, perched on a hillside near the top of 28th Street, actually did. The force of the tornadic winds burst through the first-floor garage, collapsed its supporting walls and causing the entire second floor to heave and slide forward down an embankment to rest on its nose.
The town opened its Civic Center, 2100 Broadway, Monday evening for residents uprooted and displaced by the twister. But no one stayed overnight, said Sherri Odell, a spokeswoman for The American Red Cross of Western Missouri, who was in Oak Grove on Tuesday morning. “Nobody came. Basically that’s a good sign,” Odell said, because it means that those affected stayed with friends or relatives and had other support. She said the Red Cross had also set up a shelter for those affected by the storm in the Smithville area, north of Kansas City, at the Gower Christian Church, 203 S. Third St., Gower. Mo. As many as 50 homes and commercial buildings were damaged in Oak Grove near 25th and Main streets, said Casey Hyatt, a worker for Tanner’s tree service. “It’s just a mess up there,” he said. The tornado was part of storms and tornadoes that swept through the Kansas City area Monday night causing extensive damage. The line of storms pounded the region with large hail, some the size of tennis balls and baseballs, and strong winds.
Among the hardest hit were Oak Grove, Smithville and Johnson County Executive Airport in Olathe. Click here for more coverage on storm damage throughout the Kansas City area. The National Weather Service will have teams surveying storm and tornado damage in those areas, as well as in Carrollton, Mo. At one point Monday night, 130,000 customers were without power, according to Kansas City Power & Light. By 10:45 a.m. Tuesday, that number had been reduced to some 7,700 customers. Seven hundred employees are deployed to restore power, KCP&L spokeswoman Rebecca Galati said, including some with Westar Energy as part of a mutual assistance agreement between the utility companies.
Galati added that more than 150 distribution and transmission poles were destroyed. More than 75 percent of Oak Grove was without power early Tuesday morning, but by late morning, that percentage was less than 20 percent. Schools are canceled in Oak Grove Tuesday. Lee’s Summit has also canceled school on Tuesday because of power outages. An emergency worker said early Tuesday that most residents that were forced to leave their homes opted to stay with friends and relatives nearby. Oak Grove is a small community of about 8,000 residents that straddles the lines between eastern Jackson County and Lafayette County, some 30 minutes east of Kansas City.
Excerpts taken from Kansas City Star
Eric Adler: 816-234-4431, @eadler
Robert A. Cronkleton: 816-234-4261, @cronkb
Max Londberg: 816-234-4378, @maxlondberg
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