ANDOVER, Kan. (WDAF) — Days after a powerful tornado left widespread damage and heartbreak, residents in Andover were still picking up pieces left from the EF-3 storm.
Leaders said it could be years before the community is whole again. The twister carved a 4-mile path, affecting more than 1,000 homes and buildings.
It came 31 years after another powerful tornado ripped through the suburb, killing 17.
While there were no deaths from this year’s tornado, it did toss cars, demolish homes, and send a variety of debris flying.
“We saw one of our 1,100-pound hay bales in a living room three houses up,” Sabina Esterline said.
Surrounded by damage on Monday, Esterline said she grabbed her 10-year-old son Friday and ran downstairs.
“The lightning struck the same time the tornado struck, which caused a massive fire inside,” she recalled.
“It sounds like a jet, and a train has combined. Your house is collapsing above you, yet you’re sitting in smoke, so you don’t know if you’re walking up to a fire. You don’t know if you’re going to be able to get out of the house. So we started walking down our driveway after we called 911, and we hear people screaming for help. People are taking roll-call, trying to find each other.”
Amy Brubaker was the last person in her cul-de-sac who has a home she can stay in, but the damage is widespread. Her home, like most in this area, has signs of damage, and there are new feelings of isolation.
“This tree was stuck in the roof. That was the first time I started to cry,” Brubaker said. “Through the weekend I think the adrenaline held all of us up, but I have talked to my neighbors and we’re all crashing. The reality’s here.”
“Helping a lady out of her house — she’s walking down the boards. And she looked up, and she’s like, ‘Where’s my home?’ And I said, ‘I’m sorry, you don’t have one.’ And she just started bawling. And it’s surreal,” Esterline said, recounting the aftermath.
As a community comes to grip with a new reality, cleanup continues, often with help from friends and neighbors.
“Just grateful. I had no idea who was showing up. I’ve been so overwhelmed,” Esterline said.
“It’s hard to respond back to people. You just try to keep it together. You know, it’s just a house. But you also have nothing.”
Prairie Creek Elementary will also be shutting down for the remainder of the year with just over two weeks left of school as the school sustained extensive damage.