Heartland Rural Electric Cooperative

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Heartland Rural Electric Cooperative
P.O. Box 40
110 North Enterprise Dr.
Girard, Kansas 66743

Members of southeast Kansas’ Heartland Rural Electric Cooperative, sustained devastating damage to lives and property from a series of tornado’s during the evening hours of Sunday, May 4th. Throughout the day, weather alerts were announced from local radio and television stations stating that the National Weather Service had issued a severe thunderstorm watch for much of the southern area served by the cooperative. By 4:00 p.m. that afternoon, the thunderstorm watch was upgraded to a Tornado Warning.

The series of storms began when a tornado touched down East of Parsons, Kansas. Initial speculations made by storm chasers considered the tornado's damage to be measured between an F3 and F4. Described as between a 1/4 and 1/2 mile wide, it carved a path north of McCune, south of Girard and concentrated on the town of Franklin (click here for streaming video) before continuing into Missouri. A short time after the first tornado was reported, a second tornado touched down south and east of Columbus, Kansas. This tornado continued through the towns of Crestline, Kansas and continued on its way to Carl Junction and Pierce City, Missouri. Reports of tornado sightings continued throughout the evening, while crews from Heartland REC worked throughout the night and morning to restore power to the effected areas (click here for streaming video). "Extensive transmission line damage is making progress difficult. Our crews are back-feeding electric service in many areas, but we continue to wait on transmission repairs to many other areas," said Tom Spurgeon, member services and marketing manager for Heartland REC.
While the co-op’s efforts resulted in electric service being restored to rural Greenbush, St. Paul, Walnut and Brazilton, Kansas areas, as of Monday morning, southern counties that were effected by a separate tornado remain without power. "Our system repairs have been made. We’re being informed by the neighboring utility that the transmission line repairs should be made by late Monday, said Paul Norris, Heartland’s Operations Manager.
"We need to emphasize the importance of power line safety," continued Spurgeon, "as of Monday morning, miles of power lines remain on the ground. We want everyone to stay away from downed lines and to treat them as dangerous." Heartland points out that if the utility is in the process of restoring power, or a generator is operating near a downed power line, it can create a dangerous situation from voltage being carried in that downed power line. Once the first tornado made its way into Missouri, Heartland crews began assessing the damage to the system. Cooperative employees were called-in from Iola and Mound City to assist with restoration efforts, while incoming calls were answered at Heartland's office in Girard.
Governor, Kathleen Sebelius declared many Kansas counties emergency disaster areas. Some of the counties included in the list are Cherokee, Crawford, Labette, Miami and Leavenworth. The Kansas National Guard was called in to the town of Franklin to assist in rescue efforts, while controlling traffic and possible looting.
Initial death toll estimates were place at 7, however Crawford County Sheriff, Sandy Horton reduced the initial count by one in an announcement late Monday afternoon, May 5th. The total number of fatalities in southeast Kansas now stands at 6.

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