3 weeks after Eureka tornado: ‘It looks like they dropped a bomb here’


Clean up and recovery efforts are continuing in Eureka nearly a month after an EF3 tornado hit the town.

“We still see roofs with tarps on them. We see a lot of roofs that have not even been tarped yet. We see some windows still boarded up. We still see some debris and rubble, some of it is actually caught in the higher branches of trees,” said Greenwood County Long Term Recovery Committee Director Matt Osborn.

Obsorn and his team are tasked with helping survivors of the tornado recover from the devastation.

“We are meeting with those clients, just helping them work through and determine what their actual unmet needs are and then bring some resource providers to the table that can help bring donations, gifts, grants whatever is available to meet those needs long term,” Osborn explained.

The June 26 tornado impacted 168 homes. About 30 of the homes have been torn down or condemned. When a tornado hit in 2016, the city had a net loss of 25 dwellings, according to Obsorn.

“The challenge we face in that is we were only able to rebuild five dwellings the last time around. This time, without funds, without volunteers, we are going to struggle to be able to rebuild even a fraction of those homes,” he said. 

Osborn said the recovery committee along with a number of agencies and non-profit organizations have collected about $75,000 to help the tornado survivors.

Unfortunately, he said that’s only enough money to build about two homes and a fix a few roofs.

“What we struggle with with FEMA in a small town like ours is if you don’t have a complete devastation it’s almost impossible to qualify,” Osborn said. “What it means for the people of Eureka is we have a long road ahead of us. It means we have to go out and we have to advocate for our neighbors and try to get the word out.”

Curt Ross lost a newly built shop in the 2016 tornado.

“Tornado leveled it. Everything I owned was scattered down 7th Street. Two years later, I’m still in a lawsuit with the insurance company,” Ross said.

Ross’s home was also damaged in the 2018 twister.

“It sure took out a lot of houses in this town and the big old trees that are so beautiful, they’re all gone. It’s just almost sickening,” he said.

Ross and Osborn worry people outside of Eureka may forget their story and their need for help.

“I talk to people up in Emporia, that’s what 40 miles away, and they didn’t even know we got hit, let alone twice,” Ross said.

“So we are going to try to get the word out as much as we possibly can,” Osborn said.

Osborne said he has faith Eureka will rebuild and the city’s future is bright.

“We are going to survive because we are strong. We are going to survive because we are unified,” he said.

Click here for more information and ways to help the Greenwood County Long Term Recovery Committee and the survivors it serves.

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