These articles are reprints from the Pittsburg Morning Sun.   A huge "thank you" to the Morning Sun for their excellent coverage of the storm and the aftermath.  

May 5, 2003
Franklin Suffers Heavy Damage
Twisters Kill 7 in SE Kansas
Tornado Leaves Trail of Rubble
Many Left Without Electricity
May 6, 2003
Residents Sift Through Damage, Organize Relief Efforts
Picking Up The Pieces
County Death Toll Remains at 3
Power Company Employees Working to Restore Power
May 7, 2003
Obituary - Josephine Maghe
Bush Issues Disaster Declaration
As Shock Subsides, Cleanup Efforts Begin
Workers Close To Returning Power to Storm Victims
Assessing the Damage
Praeger Offers Reassurance to the Victims
Kline Warns Victims of Potential Scams
The Long Road Ahead
May 8, 2003
Residents Ponder Franklin's Future
Agencies Attempting to Reduce Health Risks of Clean-up Efforts
Clean-up Efforts Progressing in Crawford County
May 9, 2003
Boil order lifted for residents with undamaged water service
Crawford County, agencies set up disaster hotlines
Pets also tornado victims
Victims warned against fraud scams
Businesses doing their part during relief effort
May 10, 2003
Salvation Army volunteers making presence known
County asked to consider Franklin's future
Brownback promises aid
May 11, 2003
Twisters unfortunately synonymous with Kansas
May 12, 2003
Franklin incorporation discussed


May 13, 2003
Surveying the devastation
May 14, 2003
Emerson outlines procedure for Franklin to pursue incorporation
National Guard joins cleanup efforts
May 15, 2003
Some examinations provided by life, not classroom
May 16, 2003
Disaster Child Care offering free services for many area residents
May 17, 2003
County urges continued work on Franklin sewer district
May 19, 2003
Franklin sewer financing in question after tornado
May 20, 2003
PHS Students help with clean-up efforts
May 26, 2003
Leaders invite Franklin to join Arma
May 28, 2003
Cleanup proceeding at rapid pace
County continues discussing Franklin annexation    
June 9, 2003
Residents want specifics on annexation
June 11, 2003
A temporary place to call home
June 22, 2003
Opposed to Franklin annexation  
PHS student raises funds for relief effort
June 27, 2003
Future of Franklin Post Office topic of Sunday meeting
June 30, 2003
Combo may be post office's best shot
July 2, 2003
Crawford County Commission Meeting
July 9, 2003
Emergency landfill available - for a fee
August 20, 2003
Grant to help Franklin build new community center
September 20, 2003
Franklin council to meet Oct. 5
September 22, 2003
Franklin rebuilding community
October 3, 2003
Franklin Council to meet Sunday
October 6, 2003
Franklin looks for ways to accept financial help
April 5, 2004
Franklin hoping for pressure from officials
April 23,2004
Knights of Columbus celebrate centennial
April 24, 2004
Commissioners discuss Franklin storm siren
County to use Homeland Security grant to acquire command center
April 28,2004
Tree planting set at Franklin
April 30, 2004
Arbor Day activities planned throughout Pittsburg area
Volunteer help needed to clean storm damage
May 1, 2004
Establishing new roots in Franklin
May 3, 2004
Franklin plans spring cleanup
May 4, 2004
FEMA, grants have helped with rebuilding process
Communities plan services to commemorate anniversary
Franklin tornado victims look back on a year of emotional, physical hardships
One year later
May 5, 2004
How fragile, how strong-Franklin observes anniversary of tornado
May 27, 2004  
Storms rumble through county
May 28, 2004  
A year later, area residents taking warnings seriously
Area storm damage minimal

Franklin suffers heavy damage
May 5, 2003
Morning Sun News Editor
FRANKLIN - Tim Sayre took a deep breath as he looked over what had been the site of his family home near the intersection of Seventh and Broadway in Franklin.
All that was left was a concrete porch, with indoor-outdoor carpet still firmly attached, and concrete blocks that had served as the foundation for the house where Sayre and his family had lived the last 14 years.
"It was right here," he said. "Right here."
Until Sunday afternoon, when a tornado ravaged Crawford County, leaving a 20-mile-long, half-mile wide path of debris in its wake. At least four people were killed, including an elderly woman who lived across the street from Sayre.
"It's the first time I've been in one," Sayre said. One was more than enough.
"We were in the neighbor's basement," Sayre said as he surveyed his property, looking for belongings that were few and far between. "As soon as they sounded the sirens, we were gone."
And about half an hour later, so was much of Franklin.
But in the basement of the home of Gayle Hribar, Sayre and his family were safe. Hribar's house also was destroyed - dozens of homes in a two  square milearea essentially disintegrated.
"I guess we were down there for about 30 minutes," Sayre said as he assured a neighbor that his wife and three children were safe. "Everybody (in the family) is OK."
"It's just unreal," said Tracy Whetzell, who lived on Grapevine Street about half a mile from the main path of the tornado. Unlike many in Franklin, Whetzell still had a house.
"We had a tree uprooted, dumped across the driveway," he said. "The house? It's fine."
May Jeffrey also considered herself fortunate. Jeffrey, at 1004 S. Broadway in Franklin, just north of the U.S. 69-Kansas 57 junction, wasn't home when the storm hit. Concerned about her dog, Cheyenne, Jeffrey drove toward Franklin but pulled off the road across from Frontenac Express when she heard the storm warnings.
After the storm passed, she continued home to find many shingles gone from her roof. A section of her fence is gone from the backyard and a utility shed had been moved a couple of feet off its moorings.
"It blew part of my fence away," she said, looking over the debris and trying to figure out where all of it came from. "I'll have to have a new roof."
But Jeffrey - and Cheyenne - were fine.
"She probably hid under the bed," Jeffrey said with a laugh. "She was glad to see Mama."
Jeffrey said she was glad she wasn't home to experience the storm, even though the worst of it hit about half a mile north of her house.
"I'd probably been scared spitless," she said.
Continuing north on Broadway - Old 69 Highway - the damage got progressively worse. In Jeffrey's neighborhood, treetops were ripped off, roofs were damaged and cars were peppered with hail ranging in size from marbles to baseballs. Just north, however, entire trees were uprooted, tossed onto houses. And north of that, near Seventh Street, the damage was devastating.
"It don't take long to lose everything you've got," said one Franklin resident.
"I've never seen anything like this," Whetzell said.
"My house is gone and my van is gone," said Sayre, loading up what few things he could find into the back of a heavily damaged pickup truck. The van, like the house that had been there only an hour earlier, was nowhere to be found.
"I've got to go find my van," he said. "And my gun cabinet."   Back to top

Twisters kill 7 in SEK
May 5, 2003
Officials: At least four dead in Crawford County

By The Morning Sun
Four people were killed and more than a dozen were injured by the biggest tornado to hit Crawford County in recent history. Storms claimed at least 10 lives in southeast Kansas and southwest Missouri.
Cutting a path nearly half a mile wide, the tornado touched down near McCune, in western Crawford County, around 4:40 p.m. Sunday and churned its way across the county through the outskirts of Girard, the tiny community of Ringo, into Franklin and the fringes of Mulberry before moving into Missouri.
Two deaths were reported in the Girard area and a third was an elderly woman in Franklin. The fourth Crawford County death was reported by the state adjutant general's office and had yet to be confirmed by Crawford County officials.
"We have three confirmed fatalities right now," said Crawford County  CoronerDr. Adam Paoni from a makeshift morgue at Smith-Carson-Wall Funeral Home at Girard. "I don't have any more information than that right now."
Names of the Girard area victims were not available. The Franklin victim was identified at the scene as Josephine Maghe, whose body was found by emergency personnel in the rubble about 50 yards north of where her house once stood on Broadway Street in Franklin.
They are the first tornado related fatalities in Crawford County since a Mulberry woman was killed by a storm in the 1983. And they were among at least 10 people killed in southeast Kansas and southwest Missouri on Sunday.
Cherokee County Sheriff Bob Creech said three people were killed when a tornado hit south of Columbus around 6 p.m. One death came when a mobile home "disintegrated" about three miles south of Columbus, Creech said. The other two were in a house that was destroyed near Crestline.
Another person died west of Liberal, Mo., according to Barton County Sheriff's Deputy John Simpson, and the Jasper County Sheriff's Department reported two fatalities near Carl Junction, Mo. There were no available reports of injuries in those counties.
Mt. Carmel Regional Medical Center in Pittsburg reported treating at least 15 victims from the Crawford County tornado Sunday evening.
"Two in surgery, two in (intensive care unit)," reported nursing shift supervisor Henry Ford. "The rest were minor injuries, cuts and things like that," he said.
Ford said a couple of people treated for chest pains Sunday night were apparently stricken after weathering the storm or learning of it.
At Hospital District No. 1 of Crawford County at Girard, five people were treated for storm-related injuries, according to Connie Womble, director of nursing. Two victims were transferred - one to the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, Ks. ., and the other to St. John's Regional Medical Center at Joplin, Mo.
Hospital District No. 1 and Mt. Carmel both were prepared for the influx of storm victims.
"We had a tremendous response," said Dennis Nehls, director of the Girard hospital, which put in place a disaster plan, mobilizing staff and volunteers.
Mt. Carmel took similar preparations.
"We had two (operating room) crews, extra lab, extra x-ray folks and extra (emergency room) folks waiting," said Krista Postai, vice president for marketing and planning. "From the storm until the time we got our first patients was an hour to an hour and a half, so we were very well equipped and actually relieved that there were fewer injuries that we expected. Initial reports sounded pretty scary."   Back to top

Tornado leaves trail of rubble
May 5, 2003
Morning Sun News Editor
It was believed to be the worst tornado in Crawford County history. It left death, injury and destruction in its wake. And it changed the lives and landscapes of the Pittsburg area so quickly, few people had taken the time to figure out what they were going to do next.
"You can stay with us," said a woman hugging a suddenly homeless relative after the storm Sunday afternoon devastated a neighborhood at Franklin. "Don't worry about that. You can stay with us as long as you need to."
The state adjutant general's office reported four fatalities in Crawford County. At least 20 people were treated at area hospitals for injuries caused by or related to the tornado that touched down near McCune and mowed a half-mile swath for nearly 20 miles.
Makeshift shelters were set up in three area communities as dozens of homes were destroyed, maybe as many as 100 were damaged and scores of residents were without power or other utilities.
A temporary shelter was set up at the Mulberry Senior Citizens Center. Red Cross relief shelters also were opened at St. Joseph's Catholic Church parish hall at Arma and St. Michael's Catholic Church parish hall at Girard. Many Arma-area residents went to USD 246 schools for safety during the storm; Arma schools plan on serving meals today to persons who have been displaced by the tornado as well as to emergency personnel. Schools will be closed to classes.
"We're hoping to have school on Tuesday," said USD 246 Superintendent Marvin "Buddy" Bualle. "We'll try to get back to normal as quickly as possible, but with Franklin and Mulberry both being hit... we can't get buses around in those areas."
The school buildings, he said, were not damaged.
The Franklin Post Office was destroyed - along with more than a dozen homes in the community south of Arma. According to postal officials, mail for Franklin residents will be sent to Arma, where patrons may pick it up at the service window.
The Crawford County Sheriff's Department was manning two command centers Sunday night, at Chicken Annie's east of Girard and near Seventh and Broadway in Franklin.
The tornado touched down around 4:40 p.m. near McCune and followed a path that took it through portions of Girard, through Ringo, into Franklin, south of Mulberry and into Missouri. It took roughly 15 minutes for the tornado to tear up a large chunk of the county.
Bill Davis, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Springfield, Mo., said he could not categorize the tornado until NWS officials survey the damage today. County, state and federal officials also are expected to assess the damage.
Richard Mapes, of Mulberry, said he saw the tornado pass. It touched down about two blocks from Mapes' house.
"It was only a quarter mile," he said. "I was there."
He said he stood in the street and watched as the tornado tore through Franklin before approaching Mulberry.
A woman who identified herself only as "Ms. Bellamy" said she saw the tornado from her home about a quarter of a mile east of the Kansas 57-U.S. 69 junction, known in Crawford County as Ginardi's Corner.
"I watched it go across the middle of the field across from my house," she said. "The wind was very strong. I tried to close my back door but I couldn't because of the wind, and that was the inside door. The storm door was already closed."
She said she rode out the storm, despite the high winds, heavy rain and tennis ball-sized hail.
"I didn't take cover. I didn't think it was that bad," she said. "Believe it or not, I wasn't really scared. I've been here 38 years and this is the first time I ever saw anything like this."
At Franklin, few people stayed to watch the storm. Most sought shelter or left home to get out of the path.
"It's just unreal," said Tracy Whetzell, surveying what had been a residential area in Franklin that now was scattered piles of rubble. Whetzell's home suffered no apparent damage. But about a quarter of a mile away, on the main street through town, destruction was everywhere. Dozens of houses were gone; some were marked by piles of rubble, others only by the remnants of their foundation.
Emergency personnel sifted through that rubble looking for survivors while others tried to locate residents, going door-to-door in areas where houses still stood. Collecting names, addresses and whereabouts of residents was about the only way county officials could keep track of who was safe, who was injured and who was missing.
Emergency efforts were complicated by a swelling number of onlookers and relatives who were searched for loved ones; it was difficult at times to sort emergency workers, volunteers and residents from those curious to see the devastation.
"We've got to get this area closed off," said Crawford County Sheriff Sandy Horton from the Franklin command post on the middle of Broadway.
Broadway - old 69 Highway from Ginardi's Corner to the south edge of Arma - eventually was closed to all but emergency traffic. Kansas Highway 57 was closed from the U.S. 69 junction at Ginardi's Corner to the Kansas 7 junction in Girard, although many people snaked through county roads to view the storm damage.   Back to top

Many left without electricity
May 5, 2003
Sunday's storms left thousands of Crawford County residents briefly without power. Others may be without lights for days.
Don Hill, regional supervisor for Westar Energy, said late Sunday that crews were still doing damage assessment, but miles of 69,000 and 160,000 volt transmissions lines were down.

Hill said crews from throughout southeast Kansas were in the field and more were on the way.

"Our big problem is that we have a substation - the Mulberry substation - that was totally destroyed and we are in the process of figuring out how we can build something in there," Hill said. "We have temporary substations, but there is a lot of work and repairing to get something online. We are just in the planning stages there."

The substation served Arma, but by 11 p.m. Westar switched the city to another source. The substation also served Franklin and Mulberry.

The transmission line to Girard was also down, but with the supply lines down the city fired its own power plant and power was restored by 9 p.m.   Back to top

Residents sift through damage, organize relief efforts
May 6, 2003

Morning Sun Staff Writer
ARMA - Buddy Bualle is exhausted. Like many others in Crawford County, he spent Sunday evening helping friends and neighbors sift through tornado damage and organizing relief efforts.

As Superintendent of Schools for Northeast USD 246, Bualle called off school for Monday, although school will be held today. He said parents of students who have been displaced by the storms need to contact the school to arrange transportation.

"We'll get them to school if we just know where they are," he said.

Bualle said sports events scheduled for Monday and Tuesday were canceled as well.

"Our priorities switched on us very quickly.

"We've got kids without homes," he continued. He knows of at least six Franklin families without homes. "And there may be more."

Among the homeless are his son's in-laws. "I walked through there last night. I saw a lot of parents without homes, or just thankful they had just a little damage."

Bualle headed home Sunday night about 9:30 p.m., but found he couldn't sleep. At 2:30 a.m., he gave up the battle and got up.

"Even if it doesn't physically affect you, the emotional toll does," he said. "First you go numb. It's a small town, you know everybody. A lifetime of stuff's gone."

Eric Whetzell, Mulberry, was in that numb state. "Tornado wiped out my house," he said at the Red Cross shelter in Arma's St. Joseph's parish hall. "I was there 'til the last minute. Seen the neighbors leave, then I heard the roar and then I just got out."

His wife and four children are safe, but the house is gone, along with everything they own, including clothes.

"Tried to scrounge around for clothes, but most of them were mangled up," he said.

Half his house is across the street from its foundation, while the other half is in a nearby strip pit.

Whetzell applied to the Red Cross for immediate relief, receiving boxes of food and packets of personal items like toothbrushes and toothpaste. The Red Cross volunteer also told him how to apply for Federal Emergency Management Agency assistance to find shelter later on.

But that means he needs proof of residence.

"I lost all my paperwork," Whetzell said. "Everything." The volunteer assured him he could go to the city hall for a copy of his utility bill.

Even though the parish hall was equipped with cots for at least 50 people, no one spent the night there Sunday night. Whetzell said his family spent the night with his mother.

A shelter at St. Michael's Parish Hall in Girard also stayed empty Sunday night, according to caretaker Jim Davied.

Aaron Phillips, director of the Pioneer Chapter of the Red Cross, said many victims wanted to stay close to their homes in spite of the damage. "Right now we have shelter here," Phillips said at St. Joseph's.

"Last night we had people in and out looking for family members, not anyone willing to stay the night," he said. "That's pretty common in these situations. We're expecting an influx tonight."

St. Michael's will also be open to provide shelter tonight. Other shelters are located in Mulberry at the senior citizens' center and at the Golden Era home in Arma.

Monday morning, Red Cross shelter director Paul Fairbanks said, "Quite frankly, we're trying to get our feet on the ground." He was organizing the efforts of emergency relief vehicles (ERVs), which were delivering meals to rescue personnel and volunteers in Franklin and Mulberry.

Karen Nugent, a volunteer from Coffeyville, explained, "Right now they are processing people at the shelter trying to find hotels and motels to put them up, those who have no place to go, no relatives, trying to give them food and find the local agencies to help them with clean- up."

After Sunday's storms had passed, 10 guardsmen from the National Guard 891st Company A were deployed to help provide security in and around the Franklin and Arma area. Those guardsmen will remain on duty through Wednesday at the site.

Meals for the rescue workers and tornado victims were prepared by Janet Pommier and Jeanette Simon, cooks at Northeast High School, and delivered by the Red Cross.

Nugent and Tom Alexander, another Red Cross volunteer from Coffeyville, took their ERV to Northeast to load up more than a hundred meals for workers at the "Ground Zero" command post in Franklin.

Nugent and Alexander drove into town last night to help set up the shelter at St. Joseph's.

"What we needed the most that first night was basic information," she said. "People were coming up emotional crying, 'I can't find my grandpa' and we did not have the information because it was just to early. So we felt pretty helpless and it was pretty chaotic. What we needed was what we couldn't give them. And yet everyone responded as quickly as they could it was just a matter of timing. People were in shock and in tears and there was not much we could do but be there and offer some compassion."

She called the aid the Red Cross is receiving from Northeast schools and others "just amazing."

Northeast High School Principal John Underwood helped custodians Danny Rhodes and Ed Babcock load vats of mac and cheese casserole and green beans, packs of cookies and chips, a pan of hot dogs and buns, and cartons of milk into the rescue vehicle.

"We cooked what we thought would be easy to handle," Underwood explained. In addition, he said, the cooks served 150 breakfasts Monday morning.

The kitchens will continue serving meals to rescue workers and tornado victims today, Bualle said. "People can come get it or we'll take it out to them," he said. "We're going to have school tomorrow, but still anyone who wants meals, we'll provide them, just whatever we can do."

He said the shower facilities at the high school are also open. "We left it open all last night," he said.

Recalling the 1983 tornado which killed one Mulberry woman, Bualle said, "This is twice we've had tornadoes hit our community."

He said school was closed simply because so many students were affected by the damage to their homes, but added, "We had kids wanting to do things to help. We've even had other schools calling wanting to help. It's been unbelievable. It's something special."

John Shore, a Pittsburg resident, showed up at Northeast to drop off a load of clothing for the victims. He said he had heard a call for donations on the radio.

He wasn't the only one. The Arma Police Department asked Underwood to move buses out of the bus barn so donations of food, clothing and other supplies could be stored there.

Shore said he was in the process of moving. "I'm packing up and heard on the radio they needed clothes, so I thought I'd bring them on over."

Even though Pittsburg wasn't hit directly, he said he's still trying to locate a friend from Carl Junction.

Another volunteer was going on 30 hours of service in spite of the pain she was in, and yet another was working in spite of the loss of a good friend, killed in the tornado that struck Ringo.

Bualle echoed their feelings. "I'm worn out, but I don't know if I can rest."

Nugent said, "I think the community has come forth and we have had so many offers of what we need, from food to blankets to toys. One guy came up and offered his chainsaw and tractor. So it is amazing what the community has done to give us the tools we need to help these people."

One thing the rescue volunteers still need, she said, is sunscreen. "That's one thing we didn't think of."

Finally, the Crisis Resource Center of SEK (formerly Safehouse) is offering clothing to those in need. Staff noted that they have women's and children's clothing and some men's closing, as well as household items and some personal care items. For more information, call 1-800-794-9148 or 620-231-8251.

Staff Writer Olive Sullivan can be reached at, or by calling 231-2600, Ext. 134.   Back to top

Picking up the pieces
May 6, 2003
Sebelius visits area, promises quick help for victims

Morning Sun Staff Writer
FRANKLIN - Officials from county, state, and federal government are in the preliminary stages of offering assistance to victim's of Sunday's tornado outbreak.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius visited the wrecked unincorporated town of Franklin Monday afternoon and said the state is trying to rush federal aid, including cash payments, to the area.

The governor talked with Debi Fager-Maghe. Fager-Maghe, of Riverton, was collecting from the debris items belonging to her mother-in-law Josephine Maghe. Maghe was one of three Crawford County fatalities in Sunday's tornado.

"I'm so sorry," the governor told a weeping Fager-Maghe.

Sebelius told her state and federal agencies will provide relief.

"I was insurance commissioner before this and they should be sending someone down shortly," she said.

Sebelius conducted a news conference among the rubble that was the homes lining Broadway Street.

"This is a tragedy that will be difficult to recover from," she said. "Stuff can be put back together, but you will never recover those loved ones."

The governor arrived in Franklin via a Kansas Highway Patrol motorcade after flying over the damage and into Pittsburg's Atkinson Municipal Airport. Dick Hainje, regional director for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, State Sen. Jim Barone, D-Frontenac, and three state representatives joined Sebelius in the trek from Topeka.

"We are here today to tell the people of Crawford and Cherokee counties how very sorry I am on behalf of all of the citizens of the state for the losses you have suffered and the lives that are lost."

Sebelius said she telephoned Michael Brown, undersecretary of FEMA, before leaving Topeka. She said he would travel to the region in the next few days.

"Expediting that help and assistance will help people get their lives back to normal as quickly as possible," she said.

The governor said the insurance department will assist residents in gathering the necessary paperwork. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment will establish a temporary headquarters in the area so residents will be able to obtain copies of vital records such as birth certificates.

Seven counties in Kansas, including Cherokee and Crawford, have been declared state disaster areas and the governor said she will ask President Bush to do the same on the federal level. She said she is trying to coordinate the state's request with Missouri, also devastated by storms Sunday.

"It has more impact at the federal level when there is a multi-state effort under way," she said.

Hainje said FEMA has been in contact with state officials since the beginning of the calamity.

"We started tracking the activity right away," he said. "We work real close with state emergency management - just like they work with local emergency management. I made it clear in my discussions with the folks at headquarters in Washington D.C. that it was a very devastating situation out here."

In the midst of a trying fiscal crisis, Kansas will likely need to use state funds to match federal aid.

"We will find the money to match the federal aid and make sure that people have the help they need to recover," Sebelius said. "That is our number one priority to take care of Kansans with the budget dollars available."

Republican Senators Pat Roberts and Sam Brownback and Rep. Jim Ryun, R-Kansas, also sent letters to Bush requesting a disaster declaration.

Hainje said after the governor signs a formal request for a disaster status, the document will go to FEMA's regional office in Kansas City, and then the national office.

"What we've tried to do is work with them all day to see that those requirements will get done as quickly as possible and then get them forwarded to Washington D.C.," he said.

FEMA will then determine if it the damage is sufficient for a declaration.

"This is a very major significant event in Kansas so I'm quite sure that we are going to reach those levels, but only the president declares a disaster," Hainje said.

Hainje said it will take several days for FEMA to conduct damage assessment and up to 10 days for the declaration. Meanwhile, the local, state, and private agencies will be delivering support.

"We have already mobilized most of the forces that we can and we will continue to do that," said Rep. R.J. Wilson, D-Pittsburg.

Wilson said that the delivery of disaster relief will occur in steps - starting with providing emotional comfort.

"We are going to do everything we can," said Rep. Bob Grant, D-Cherokee. "Whatever they need, they need to give us a call and we will do our best to get it done."

Sebelius complimented the public and private agencies which rushed to help victims.

"Neighbors and friends feel themselves to be neighbors and friends whether they live across the street or 200 miles away," she said.

Later in the day, Sebelius visited a similar scene in Wyandotte County.   Back to top

County death toll remains at three
May 6, 2003
Morning Sun Staff Writer
The Crawford County death toll from Sunday's tornado remained at three as Sheriff Sandy Horton declared that all residents in affected areas had been accounted for Monday.

"We've checked the water files. We've checked the area. We've had dogs come in from Wichita and work the area early this morning, so right now the residents have been accounted for and we have just opened it up for the residents of Franklin to come back in to the community to check their homes and gather any belongings they can find," Horton said Monday from a makeshift command post on Franklin's main street. "This is going to be a real tough time for a lot of people."

The Crawford County Sheriff's Department released the names of the three people killed in Sunday's storm.

Sharon Lashbrook, 48, lived on 200th Street approximately one mile from Ringo; George Bolte, 68, of Ringo; and Josephine Maghe, 87, of Franklin, all died as a result of the twister, which was first reported on the ground five miles north and four miles west of McCune.

Nineteen other people were hurt and taken to Mt. Carmel Regional Medical Center in Pittsburg and Hospital District No. 1 of Crawford County in Girard. Two people were taken to St. John's Regional Medical Center in Joplin, Mo., and one was taken to KU Medical Center in Kansas City, Ks..

Horton said officials are now starting from where the tornado began and going back through to check every farm house and damaged structure to make sure no one else was injured during the storm.

"There is a lot of damage out there so we are still checking. But to our knowledge, we don't have anybody missing."

Crawford County Emergency Preparedness Director Eldon Bedene said officials from the state Emergency Management Agency would be going house to house in the area that was damaged to assess whether individual structures are safe and post them accordingly.

Bedene said about 95 homes in Crawford County were destroyed. It was unclear how many had been damaged. He said the main concentration of damage was in Ringo and Franklin.

Bedene said he has declared the area a disaster area.

"The county commission will sign the paper at (today's) commission meeting and I will send it to Topeka," he said. "The governor declared. But really they can do it on my say so, but I still have to send an official letter signed by the president of the commission to Topeka. But we've got to get the president to declare it a disaster."

According to the sheriff's department, the twister traveled in a northeast direction for 26 miles leaving a path of destruction in its wake until it exited Crawford County, entering Barton County, Mo.

Horton said the tornado first was spotted by deputies northwest of McCune, allowing many people time to prepare. But the fact that it stayed on the ground most of the way across the county was unexpected.

"Did it catch us off guard? I think any tornado is going to catch you off guard no matter what," Horton said. "But did it surprise us as to the length of it? Absolutely. We did not expect it to traverse the whole county. It really took us in several different directions. We had Ringo damage, we have this, we had rural farm houses damaged."

Horton said that he called everybody out that they could find Sunday from the sheriff's department and the rural township fire departments to deal with the storm. Many other area agencies volunteered services and all remained in Franklin, Ringo and other parts of the county Monday afternoon.

"We have every local agency in the county," Horton said. "Pittsburg, Frontenac, Arma has been here, plus several surrounding counties. We have had eight or nine ambulances from other counties. It has just been tremendous the amount of help we've had. The state flew some emergency preparedness people in here. So we are very happy with the response we've had. I just can't even tell you how many different agencies were represented."

The adjutant general of Kansas, Maj. Gen. Gregory B. Gardner, said the National Guard unit from Pittsburg, 891st Engineer Battalion, also lent a hand Sunday night securing the area.

"This is the beginning part so what they did (Sunday) night was security and helping wherever they could help," Gardner said. "We will continue that as long as the sheriff says he needs it. These folks belong to the 891st Engineer Battalion, so we'll probably end up shifting them from security to debris removal with all the trucks and loaders. But that still remains to be seen."

Horton said the current focus of emergency officials will be helping people get their personnel belongings and the restoration of utilities.

"We still have areas to the east of us without power," he said. "We need to get the electric set up here and get that working. Gas service is here. We've got the main gas service shut off, but we still need to shut off some of the meters that are under the debris right now. We are going to help the residents as best we can and still secure the perimeter."

Late Monday afternoon there was no one in Franklin with power and, according to Horton, there was no indication when it would be restored.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment issued a boil water advisory for Franklin. KDHE officials issued the advisory because of a loss of water pressure in Crawford County Rural Water District No. 7 following Sunday's tornado. Low water pressure increases the possibility of back siphonage which could result in the water supply being contaminated. The advisory will remain in effect until rescinded by KDHE.

Customers of the water system are asked to boil water for one minute before use, dispose of ice cubes and do not use ice from a household automatic icemaker, and disinfect dishes and utensils by immersing in tap water containing one teaspoon of unscented household bleach per gallon of water. Water used for bathing generally does not need to be boiled.

For more information persons may call Henry Ashbacher at (620) 249-2900.   Back to top

Power company employees working to restore power
May 6, 2003

By The Morning Sun Staff
As the sun came up Monday, the lights came back on for some Crawford County residents who lost power after Sunday's tornados.
Westar Energy said more than 200 of its employees were working to restore power in southeast Kansas Monday evening. The company said 66 transformers in southeast Kansas were damaged, along with 656 primary lines and 234 poles.

As of Monday afternoon, Westar said 16 transformers had been replaced and 65 primary lines and 56 poles had been repaired.

Westar said about 180 customers in an area stretching from Ringo to Franklin remained without power Monday evening because the tornado destroyed a substation in Mulberry Sunday evening.

That substation also served the city of Mulberry, which provides service to its residents through its own distribution system. Westar said it will construct a temporary substation until the permanent substation can be repaired.

"Our crews will continue to work around the clock until we can get the equipment fixed and restore power to our customers, including the city of Mulberry," said Don Hill, Westar operations director. "We've brought in crews from Westar Energy divisions throughout the state."

Westar said that 16,000 of its customers lost power during the storms in both southeast and northeast Kansas.

Girard City Administrator Mike West said Westar Energy's transmission lines to the city were repaired early Monday morning. The city returned to Westar power at 8:30 a.m. The city operated its own generators overnight to keep power after a Sunday afternoon tornado barely missed the county seat. West said there was no significant damage in the city of almost 3,000.

Mike Willis with Westar said all of the company's southeast Kansas crews, 12 outside crews, and 10 contract crews were in the area.

"We are in the process of cleaning up the downed lines until the poles we've ordered get in and we can set them," Willis said.   Back to top

Josephine Maghe
May 7, 2003

FRANKLIN - Josephine Maghe, 87, of Franklin, died Sunday, May 4, 2003, at Franklin.
She was born Nov. 15, 1915, in Dade County, Mo., to Amos and Daisy Alexander Rhodes, and grew up in southwest Missouri and southeast Kansas. She was a homemaker who lived in Franklin most of her life.

Mrs. Maghe worked for Stanley Products, the Crawford County Treasurer's Office and later for the U.S. Census Bureau. She was a member of the Arma United Methodist Church, Mt. Carmel Regional Medical Center Auxiliary and the Arma Eagles Auxiliary.

She was a former Democrat Precinct committeewoman and a former member of the Franklin Water Board.

She married Joe Maghe on Oct. 26, 1935, at Lamar, Mo. He preceded her in death July 8, 2002.

Survivors include one daughter, Jo Anne Swezey, of Franklin; one son, Joseph Maghe, of Riverton; one brother, William Rhodes, of St. John; nine grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

She also was preceded in death by two sisters, Arelva Cernes and Dolly Rhodes, and five brothers, Floyd Rhodes, John Rhodes, Alfred Rhodes, Herbert Rhodes and Vern "Tuffy" Rhodes.

Funeral services will be 10 a.m. today at Bedene Funeral Home, Arma, with the Rev. Steve Cole officiating. Burial will be in Pittsburg Garden of Memories Cemetery. The casket will remain closed. Arrangements are under the direction of the Bedene Funeral Home, Arma.   Back to top

Bush issues disaster declaration
May 7, 2003

By The Morning Sun Staff
President Bush on Tuesday issued federal disaster declarations for seven counties in Kansas and 39 in Missouri, an action that allows federal emergency assistance to flow to the affected areas.
Two Federal Emergency Management Agency inspectors from Kansas City were working in Franklin Tuesday, but Director Mike Brown did not visit the devastated southeast Kansas community.

Brown visited victims in Kansas City, Ks. ., Pierce City, Mo. and Tennessee.

"He reluctantly can't visit southeast Kansas because of time constraints," said Crystal Payton, a public information officer.

Qualifying residents and business owners in the following Kansas counties are eligible for federal aid: Cherokee, Crawford, Labette, Leavenworth, Miami, Neosho and Wyandotte.

Among the potential benefits of the federal aid:

* rental payments for temporary housing for victims whose homes are not livable

* grants for home repairs and essential household items that were damaged

* grants to defray costs of certain medical, dental, funeral and transportation needs

* unemployment payments for individuals who temporarily lost jobs

* loans for small businesses and farmers

* crisis and legal counseling

* assistance to the state and local governments for debris clean-up and hazard prevention projects

Affected residents and business owners can get more information starting Wednesday by calling 800-621-FEMA or 800-462-7585 for the hearing and speech impaired.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.   Back to top

As shock subsides, cleanup efforts begin
May 7, 2003
Morning Sun Staff Writer
FRANKLIN - Sadie Pichler was one of the lucky ones.

Pichler, who is listed in good condition at Mt. Carmel Regional Medical Center, reluctantly went to her basement just before the tornado that ripped through the county Sunday destroyed her home.

"They found her down in the basement. Part of the house fell on her," said her son, Frank Pichler, from the house that used to stand at 505 Lasota in Franklin.

"She is getting transferred out of the ICU today to a regular room," Pichler said of his mother, now 85.

Frank Pichler, who was raised in the house but now lives in Bartlesville, Okla., said that his mother was against the west wall of the basement when the house collapsed on top of her.

Pichler said that, even though his mother had lived in the house these 61 years, he doesn't think she will rebuild in Franklin.

He was there with other families member sifting through the debris looking for anything of value.

"We were in here yesterday and we picked up mementos all over the place," he said. "My dad died died about five years ago and my mom has stuff of his here if we can find it. But I don't know if we can find it. There are a lot of memories here."

Crawford County Sheriff Sandy Horton said that he believes cleanup efforts are going well.

"Our goal is to open the road ways early today. Any of the residents who wanted back in are in with volunteer help and they are doing a good job, " Horton said from the county's mobile command center, which was set up in Franklin.

At 4:22 p.m. on Sunday, the National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for Crawford. Officials in Labette County notified the Crawford County sheriff's department of a funnel cloud in their county heading towards Crawford County.

Crawford County sheriff's deputies reported a tornado on the ground five miles north and four miles west of McCune. The tornado traveled in a northeast direction for 26 miles until it exited Crawford County.

In the storm's wake, 19 people were taken to area hospitals and three Crawford County residents were dead. Nearly 100 homes were destroyed, several livestock killed, crops destroyed, a radio tower fell, power lines were down and at least 19 railroad cars derailed near Mulberry.

"A lot of plans are being made and a lot of work is being done," Horton said of clean up efforts. "The county is working on a dumpsite near Franklin. Some of the debris will need to be buried, any of the wood products that can be burned we'll need to get burn permits. But we do have a dump site location and we are trying to prepare that site today."

Horton said he was not sure when the mobile command center would be taken out of Franklin or when official activity near Ringo will dissipate. But he did say that he will begin scaling down security in both areas once he is confident that the residents have retrieved everything they could from their homes.

"We're hoping to scale down the security crew today and open the roads," Horton said. "We will be determining on a day-by-day basis how long we will be on site and patrolling."

According to Horton, who will be cleaning up debris is yet to be determined.

"We need to see whether this is declared a disaster or not. If it is then we will be looking not only at the county but also the National Guard and that type of help. But it is too early to say that.   Back to top

Workers close to returning power to storm victims
May 7, 2003
Morning Sun Staff Writer
A second wave of storms dodged Crawford County on Tuesday, allowing workers to make huge strides in restoring electricity to damaged areas. Westar Energy officials said they expected power to be restored to almost all locations by this morning.

"Assuming that something doesn't go on, we expect to have that one before daylight tomorrow," Westar operations director Don Hill said. "Š Come tomorrow morning, if we have 20 customers left (without power) I'm going to be surprised."

Power was restored in Franklin to all but six houses Tuesday evening, Hill said, and had been restored to the Ringo, Radley and McCune areas by Tuesday afternoon, although some homes were damaged and unable to receive electric service.

Hill said the new Mulberry substation was expected to become operational early Wednesday morning and that the city of Mulberry had its distribution system repaired and ready for power.

Beyond that, Hill said all that was needed to restore power to Mulberry was repairing a few miles of lines between the new substation and the city.

Progress apparently was made rapidly on Tuesday. Late in the morning, Westar said it still needed to repair 127 poles, 50 transformers, and 591 primary lines. It already had repaired 107 poles, 16 transformers, and 65 primary lines. The big fear was more storms, which hit Bourbon and Cherokee counties but missed Crawford.

"The ground is wet and muddy, but it isn't unbearable yet," Westar spokesman Kent Myers said Tuesday morning. "If we get much more rain, it's really going to slow us down quite a bit."

Myers said the new temporary substation is functionally the same as a permanent one, but it will be built on a rock base and wood poles rather than a concrete base and metal poles.

"It's still reliable but it's not meant to stand for 20 or 30 years," he said. Points in Franklin had been served by the Mulberry substation, but power was back-fed through another substation before the new substation was online.

On the natural gas front, about 86 Kansas Gas Service customers in Franklin were without service Tuesday afternoon, according to Joe Sinnett, KGS community relations manager.

"The gas probably will not be able to be back on there until the end of this week or possibly the first of next week," Sinnett said. "We have to go through, abandon those services that the houses have been destroyed on, and then make sure the system is up to standards there before we can Š energize the line."

Sinnett said there were three KGS crews in Franklin working 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. shifts.

The state's order to boil water in Crawford County Rural Water District No. 7, serving the Franklin area, remained in effect Tuesday.

"It's nothing to be completely alarmed about. It's standard procedures by KDHE," said Henry Ashbacher of the water district. He said four water samples - two on each side of the damaged area - were taken on Monday and sent to a lab in Topeka. Results are expected today.

Ashbacher said all customers have water available, but some lines are being disconnected in the damaged area before bulldozers begin to clear the debris.

"I have not been notified of anybody without service," he said.

Chuck Kunshek of Crawford County Rural Water District No. 2, which serves Ringo, said that water had been shut off at damaged properties but the rest of the district was still being served. No boil orders were in effect for that district.

Westar and KGS customers can report outages by calling (800) 544-4857. Gas leak emergencies can be reported by calling KGS at (888) 482-4950. Before digging, people should call Kansas One Call at (800) 344-7233 so that lines can be located.

Telephone company SBC Communication said it is offering 30 days of free call-forwarding and voice mail services to residents who were forced from their homes by the storms. It also said it would install new SBC local service at their new locations for free.

Customers who have evacuated their homes can sign up for the services by calling (800) 464-7928.

Staff Writer Jack Dimond can be reached at or at 231-2600, Ext. 138.   Back to top

Assessing the damage
May 7, 2003
Official says Franklin likely was devastated by F4 tornado

Morning Sun Staff Writer
FRANKLIN - A veteran weather observer said the tornado that struck Franklin Sunday afternoon was one of the strongest he has seen in almost 30 years with the National Weather Service.

Bill Davis of the service's Springfield, Mo. office said that the winds which flattened a large part of Franklin were more than 200 mph.

Davis and a colleague surveyed affected areas of Crawford County Tuesday morning. Among the debris, they found evidence of the storm's fury. The pair gave special attention to the aspects of the damage that others ignore. They photographed the foundations of homes which were lifted into the air, examined the trunks of trees stripped of bark, and measured the distance vehicles were thrown.

"A lot of these houses are what we call sliders so it is hard to tell because they were not battened down very well," he said. "A wind speed over 100 mph would take those off their foundation; but, there is a lot of other evidence here for 200 mph winds."

Davis said he would assign the tornado's classification on the Fujita Scale of Tornado Intensity after an aerial survey; however, he said it was worse than the "very severe F3" tornado which hit Pierce City, Mo. Davis said the tornado which hit Badger and Carl Junction, Mo. was an F2.

On the Fujita Scale, an F4 is described as a "devastating tornado" with winds of 207 to 260. Well-constructed houses are leveled by an F4; structures with weak foundations are blown off some distance. It throws cars and turns other large objects into missiles.

Davis said contrary to popular belief the level of official disaster assistance is not tied to tornado's F rating.

"I think people think that it is tied to that, but it isn't," he said. "You can get the same aid with an F0 tornado or strong straight-line winds as you can an F5 tornado. There is nothing, as far as aid, tied to it."

Davis said Sunday's tornado was a quarter of a mile wide and left a 26-mile path across Crawford County from where the tornado first touched down northwest of McCune to where it crossed the Missouri border near Mulberry. The storm killed three in Crawford County and destroyed 95 homes. It claimed another victim just across the state line in Barton County, Mo.

"The same storm that spawned this continued up to the Stockton, Mo., area and then up into the Camdenton, Mo., area,"

In Stockton, the storm killed three more persons and ripped into the business district. Later Sunday evening, it passed south of Camdenton killing three and destroying several homes along Missouri Highway 5.

The storms were fueled by three very strong super cells. Davis, who has been with the NWS since 1974, said they were among the worst of his career.

"It looks like a battlefield - it is a cliché - but it looks like a battlefield," Davis said while viewing the damage.

Staff Writer Jeff Wells can be reached at or at 231-2600, Ext. 137.   Back to top

Praeger offers reassurance to victims
May 7, 2003

Morning Sun Staff Writer
FRANKLIN - Victims of Sunday's tornado outbreak may face higher insurance premiums or the loss of coverage after they rebuild.

Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger met with tornado victims in Franklin Tuesday morning before the threat of more storms forced her to cut her southeast Kansas visit short. She said that the residents' biggest concern is increased rates or the inability to gain coverage in the future.

"They feel so helpless because they had nothing to do with this," she said. "This is not anything that they had any control over and we just need to give them reassurances. I want them to know that the Kansas Insurance Department is going to do everything we can do to make sure they are made whole again, as much as they can be."

"That is a scare - that we will all have higher rates and the loss of companies out of the area," said Rob Lessen of Fox Insurance Agency.

Praeger said her role is to make sure the insurance companies deliver.

"I'm not anticipating any problems. The response has been very positive," she said.

Tim Thielen, a State Farm claims representative from Hutchinson, said his company visited its policy holders with damage within 48 hours of the tornado.

Sharon Scholes was among the customers Thielen visited Tuesday. Scholes' mother, Irene Sipes, was inside her home when the winds ripped off a section of the roof and sent debris flying inside. She survived, but her house at 803 S. Broadway may be beyond repair. Scholes said she was happy with State Farm's response. Thielen visited the home several times starting Monday, she said.

State Farm had approximately 200 claims in the area with 18 homes destroyed, Thielen said. He said he wrote some checks Tuesday for policy limits on homes which were totally lost.

Dale Endress, 501 S. LaSota St., called his agent Monday morning, but had not heard from anyone as of noon Tuesday. Endress' two-bedroom home was destroyed, but he was not home when the storm hit.

Gayle Hribar worked Tuesday in the rubble of the home owned by her mother, Alice Baldwin, at 601 S. Broadway. Baldwin carried insurance on the property and had talked with the insurer, but Hribar was concerned that her mother may not have enough coverage to cover the loss.

"Our goal is to see that the companies respond quickly so that people begin the healing process," Praeger said.

With chainsaws blaring in the background, Praeger said in an interview that the companies seemed to be responding and were sending in additional adjusters.

"I think that the companies are coming together," she said. "I think they realize this was a big storm."

Praeger planned to meet with the presidents of the state's five largest insurers Tuesday afternoon.

"We will also talk to companies about the importance of not letting something like this count against a person and their homeowners insurance," Praeger said.

Lessen, who had several customers lose homes in the disaster, said people should work their agents and call the commissioner if they have any questions.

"We will do everything in on power to make sure that people get what they need quickly," Praeger said.

In a press release Monday, Praeger offered victims the following tips:

* Contact your insurance company immediately to report losses.

* If you have difficulty in reaching your insurance agent or company, call the Kansas Insurance Department's Consumer Hotline (1-800-432-2484) for assistance.

* Take notes summarizing your conversation with your insurance company and write down the name of the person with whom you spoke.

* Take photographs showing damaged property.

* Make temporary or emergency repairs only as needed to protect your property from further damage - including boarding up broken windows, placing plastic over the roof where it is leaking and drying out wet carpets and furniture. Get instructions from your adjuster BEFORE calling anyone to repair or replace damaged property. Your insurer's visual inspection of your loss may be required before claims are paid.

* If you must move out of your home, keep your receipts of hotel bills and meals. Your policy may reimburse these additional living expenses.

* Beware of questionable contractors who arrive in town to cash in on damage repair. Check references and deal with local businesses, if possible. Consult the Better Business Bureau before using out-of-town contractors.

Staff Writer Jeff Wells can be reached at or at 231-2600, Ext. 137.   Back to top

Kline warns victims of potential scams
May 7, 2003
Morning Sun Staff Writer
Kansas Attorney General Phil Kline was in Franklin Tuesday surveying the damage, encouraging local residents and offering advise for dealing with con artists, people who following tragedy looking for opportunities to exploit.

"It's unbelievable," Kline said of the damage in Franklin. "It's hard to take it all in. I can't imagine stand there seeing my life spread out in that fashion before me. It's amazing that there wasn't more loss of life. Our prayers and thoughts are with those who are suffering."

But Kline's visit was more than just offering condolences. He was here to coordinate the efforts of local law enforcement and the attorney general's office to combat unscrupulous con artists who often approach disaster victims in an effort to take advantage of those who have already suffered injuries and property damage.

"Our roll is primarily is to inform the citizens," Kline said Tuesday. "There are those who watch these things from afar and use people's vulnerability to exploit for their own benefit."

The Consumer Protection Division of the Attorney General's office works with local law enforcement in the aftermath of disastrous events.

"A multi-disciplinary Consumer Protection Emergency Response Team (CPERT) makes contact with law enforcement and media in areas affected by disaster within hours of the event. This team serves as the conduit between harmed Kansans, local law enforcement, and my office, to ensure that those affected are not then re-victimized during the clean up and rebuilding phase," Kline said.

The information released by the attorney general's office is designed to provide an overview of scams that have been documented in the wake of natural or manmade disasters.

"We are providing materials to be distributed. We are asking local law enforcement to keep us informed if they see and of that so we can act but also so we can communicate that to Wyandotte County, because these people tend to migrate where the problems are and we just need to keep an eye on them," Kline said.

Kline said that it is understandable that local homeowners will be anxious to have repairs done to homes damaged by the storm. Media coverage of storms often results in con artists moving into an area to make a quick profit.

Kline suggests homeowners remember the following:

* Only deal with contractors who have an established local business. Outside contractors may not complete the work and any warranties will be worthless if they are no longer in the area when the homeowner or business owner later discovers defects.

* Obtain at least three bids on any major repair or rebuilding project and check references to avoid a contractor who does substandard work. Be especially cautious if one of the bids is much lower than the others.

* Check to see if the contractor has a complaint history with: The Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division, 1-800-432-2310 or (785) 296-3751; BBB of Greater Kansas City (816) 421-7800; BBB of Northeast Kansas (785) 232-0454; or the Wichita Area Better Business Bureau, (316) 263-3146.

* Ask for proof of the contractor's liability and worker's compensation insurance to help protect you as a property owner against any claim in the event someone is injured while the work is being done on your property, and confirm that the policies are current by calling their insurance agent.

* Make certain that all important details concerning the work are written into the bid and contract including: The dates the work will begin and is expected to be completed, the total cost of the work, the type and quality of materials to be used, how and when payments will be made, and the provisions of any and all express warranties on the materials and labor.

* Find out from the appropriate building code enforcement office which permits and inspections are required for the work being done, and avoid a contractor who wants you to secure the permit(s).

Staff Writer Joe Noga can be reached at or at 231-2600, Ext. 132.   Back to top

The long road ahead
May 7, 2003
As one local official put it, there is a lot to do. In the wake of Sunday's deadly storms and tornados, many of our friends and neighbors have lost their property, their homes and, tragically, a few have lost their lives.
Now that the storms have passed, the process of cleaning up - and healing - begins. And, help is needed.

Anytime a tragedy such as this occurs, a number of agencies and organizations jump into action to help the stricken. After Sunday's storms, these organizations reacted quickly, setting up shelters and helping those who lost all to regain their lives.

Both the American Red Cross and the Pittsburg Salvation Army unit are working hard right now to help, but they need supplies and they need volunteers.

Staff with the Red Cross, speaking Tuesday from the organization's shelter at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Arma, noted that they need items such as rakes, shovels, gloves, face masks and lots of cleaning supplies as they help with cleanup efforts. Additionally, the Red Cross continues to need items such as sunscreen, but say they have more than enough clothing at this time.

Red Cross officials note that the Seventh Day Adventists Church has established a distribution center at Northeast High School, 1003 E. South St., in Arma, and shelter organizers are asking that all donations now go to the high school.

Meanwhile, staff at the Salvation Army are in great need of bottled water, snacks and meals which are easy to prepare, fruit and, again, sunblock, which is important for workers laboring in the hot sun. Salvation Army officials say they also need work gloves, shovels and rakes, but note that they also have lots of clothing.

Those wishing to donate to the Salvation Army can drop off items at the organization's warehouse at 717 N. Broadway.

Still another need that must always be addressed after any disaster is volunteers.

Staff at the Red Cross believe they will be working on relief efforts for at least six weeks and, although they anticipate they will need volunteers to help with clean-up after effected areas are completely opened, they add that right now they need help from those who know the affected areas, including streets, neighborhoods and people, to go with volunteers and complete damage assessments.

They add that volunteers should go to the disaster command center at Seventh and Broadway in Franklin and find out what needs to be done.

Salvation Army officials, on the other hand, say they need volunteers to help cook and deliver meals to storm victims. Those interested in volunteering can go to the Salvation Army's Pittsburg office at 307 E. Fifth St. at 8:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., which is when their staff begins preparing meals each day.

Moreover, warehouse support volunteers are needed to help categorize items to be given to storm victims.

Finally, donations are always badly needed. Providing services to the victims of Sunday's storms will undoubtedly come at a staggering price for organizations which are already stretched thin.

The Pittsburg Area Community Foundation has established a Crawford County Relief Fund to help those effected by the storms. Funds donated to the foundation will be disbursed though the local American Red Cross and other agencies.

For more information on donating to the foundation fund, call 620-231-8897. Donations are tax deductible and may be sent to: The Pittsburg Area Community Foundation, P.O. Box 1115, 117 W. Fourth St., Pittsburg, KS 66762-1115.

To give to Red Cross efforts, donations should be made out to the Pioneer Chapter of the American Red Cross and sent to: The American Red Cross, 128 W. Eighth St., Coffeyville, KS 67337. Donations to the Salvation Army should be made payable to the Salvation Army, earmarked for Crawford County relief efforts, and can be dropped off on the west side of the parking lot at the Salvation Army Thrift Store at the intersection of Fifth and Joplin streets in Pittsburg.

Lastly, University National Bank, in partnership with the Salvation Army, has set up an account for victims of the tornado. Cash donations will be accepted by mail or may be hand delivered to the bank at 1206 S. Broadway, Pittsburg, KS 66762. Checks should be made payable to: Disaster Relief Fund, care of University National Bank, P.O. Box 1418, Pittsburg, KS 66762-1418. Call 231-4200 or 231-0415 for more information.

Work has begun to help those who were left helpless by the recent storms, but we have a long road ahead. We urge local residents to help wherever they can and to give of their talents to help our community heal after this dreadful disaster.     Back to top

Residents ponder Franklin's future
May 8, 2003
Community center, post office were town's centerpieces

Morning Sun Staff Writer
FRANKLIN - Sunday morning the unincorporated town of Franklin consisted of 155 homes, a civic center, and a post office. That evening, a devastating tornado destroyed dozens of homes, the post office and the civic center.

"These were really the things that would bind the community," said Shelley Phillips Corley.

In the weeks before the storm, town pride was emerging after lying dormant for years. New faces were interested in maintaining and improving the center, a community newsletter was published, and the state announced a surprise grant for the water district. But, Sunday night the whispers began. Would Franklin recover from losing the two buildings which tied the neighbors together?

Kathy Shaffer, postmaster for almost five years, hiked through a field of debris Sunday night to find the block and brick building reduced to a small mound of twisted stone and metal.

"It sure didn't look like a large enough pile to be the whole post office," Shaffer said.

The Franklin Post Office first opened in the late 19th century and had been in its present building for 40 years. There were 90 post office boxes and 120 rural route customers served by Shaffer. Now the Franklin mail is going to Arma. Rural delivery is still going to those residences with intact mailboxes. The other Franklin customers may pick up their mail in the neighboring town while using their regular address on outgoing posts.

A postal inspector from Kansas City came to Franklin Wednesday, but Shaffer said it was to soon to determine if the USPS would rebuild there.

Jim Allen, field representative for Rep. Jim Ryun, R-Kan., said he discussed the issue with the Congressman's Washington, D.C., staff and post office officials. He declined to give further details, but said more information may be available when Ryun visits Franklin next Monday.

Meanwhile, Shaffer endeavors to make sure that the mail goes through - even those letters that had to be removed from the leveled building. Fortunately, she said, there was mail service on Saturday and all rural route mail went out.

"So what was left in the post office was what people didn't pick up," Shaffer said.

Social Security checks arrived in Franklin on Friday, but only one remained in the post office when it was blown away. Norine Laird came to the rubble Wednesday afternoon looking for her benefit check, but Shaffer handed her only a rain-soaked magazine and an undamaged bill.

Laird, a 72-year resident of Franklin, bemoaned the loss of the post office.

"That is about the only thing we had left in this town besides the community hall and it is gone as well," she said.

Veda Maxwell, another longtime resident, said there are only three things notable about the community: the world's longest intercity sidewalk stretching to Arma, the post office, and the Franklin Community Civic Center.

With no schools or churches in the community, the center served as Franklin's voting precinct and a meeting place for local government and community organizations. Margaret Kennedy remembered attending a World War II victory party at the center. Other residents recalled thousands of birthday parties, wedding and anniversary showers and receptions, graduation celebrations, and holiday events.

When someone in the community died, Josephine Maghe called Shaffer and asked her to display a notice in the post office. Shaffer would collect money for the deceased's family and then use the funds for flowers or a meal at the center. Maghe, 87, died in the twister.

Phillips Corley, president of the center board, spent Tuesday afternoon salvaging folding chairs from the destroyed building.

The board has some savings and insurance, but she wasn't sure if that would be enough to replace the center.

"If we can't rebuild it - I'd like to see a nice storm shelter for the community," she said.

John Houck, secretary and treasurer of the center's board, said he recovered some New Year's decorations and a fire extinguisher. He also found some paper plates and plastic cutlery still wrapped and gave them to the Red Cross.

Last month, a new board including Phillips Corley and Houck assumed operation of the center. They installed a new sink, range, siding, and outdoor sign. Now all that remains is the foundation and hardwood floor.

Two weeks ago, the Kansas Department of Commerce & Housing unexpectedly awarded $350,000 in federal Community Development Block Grant money to improve Crawford County Rural Water District No. 7 - which serves Franklin. The water district sent the first edition of a community newsletter with last month's bill.

Houck believes the community will not perish, but recovery will fuel its pride. He said some residents planned to talk with county officials about getting a storm warning siren and even incorporating.

"There are so many outsiders living here that it has been hard to get volunteers, but I think this will bring the community together," he said.

Staff Writer Jeff Wells can be reached at or at 231-2600, Ext. 137.   Back to top

Agencies attempting to reduce health risks of cleanup efforts
May 8,2003
Morning Sun Staff Writer
Environmental health risks that occur after a tornado can be great. But, emergency personnel are doing their best to stay on top of the situation.

Officials face health issues on several fronts following Sunday's devastating tornado, not the least of which is the Kansas Department of Health and Environment continued order to boil water in the Crawford County Rural Water District No. 7, Franklin. Officials are also dealing with tetanus, dead animals and an enormous amount of building material, some hazardous, as cleanup efforts continue.

"Primarily, prevention is what we are here to do," said Janice Goedeke from the Crawford County Health Department.

Goedeke, along with more than a dozen other volunteers from health departments across southeast Kansas, were out at the beginning of the week administering more than 200 tetanus booster shots to everyone working around debris.

"Any wound that someone gets here can be dangerous," Goedeke said. "The bacteria level is high and we are certainly going to get into infections. Wounds requiring further medical care are being referred to personnel health care professionals."

Goedeke said there is a high demand for tetanus boosters and workers have had to go out on foot and administer shots to each individual house.

"The government has given us money to combat bio-terrorism but it's not only for bio-terrorism but for other disasters as well," she said. "I have staff that I can pull in from other health departments, so we are going to have 14 going out to give tetanus boosters."

Crawford County Sheriff Sandy Horton said he is dealing with a different set of issues, such as how to properly dispose of bloating animal carcasses and building material that might pose health threats to the community at large if not disposed of properly.

"We have permission from the KDHE, to deal with dead animals on a case-by-case basis," Horton said. "We are required to bury dead animals. The county has sent equipment out, at the request of property owners, to dig holes and bury livestock that has been deceased. That's all you can do."

Horton suggests that if people don't know what to do with their dead, decomposing animals they need to call the sheriff's department.

"We'll have the county engineer people get in touch with them and take care of it immediately," he said.

Another issue Horton faces is the burning and dumping of housing material cleaned up after Sunday's deadly twister.

"The county has set up and been licensed to operate a construction and demolition landfill, which is located just west of Franklin," Horton said. "The county also has a burn permit. KDHE has been on scene for several days and basically people are not supposed to burn. All those items are supposed to be brought to this location and either burned or buried."

Horton said a burn permit is required by the State of Kansas for all material. Residents are to secure a burn permit from the state by calling Victoria S. O'Brien, from the KDHE, at 1-620-431-2390.

Horton said the people from KDHE are present and driving around looking for areas of smoke.

Horton said they called the command center twice Tuesday reporting possible unauthorized burning.

"What we don't want is people burning shingles, asbestos insulation, things like that," Horton said. "That stuff needs to be buried. But, it all needs to get to the road and either the county or the National Guard will pick it up and bring it here to the burn pile or the landfill under the license and supervision of the county or the guard."

According to Horton, the Kansas Department of Transportation is going to put up flashing signs that indicate a burning zone in Franklin and to indicate to drivers to beware of the possibility of smoke on the highway.

Staff Writer Joe Noga can be reached at or at 231-2600, Ext. 132.   Back to top

Cleanup efforts progressing in Crawford County
May 8, 2003
Morning Sun Staff Writer
Access to Franklin remains limited as scores of volunteers line up to help victims of Sunday's deadly tornado clean up debris and move it to the street.

"We are still going to have this area closed," Crawford County Sheriff Sandy Horton said Wednesday. "There will be no normal traffic pattern through here for quite some time."

Horton said he has kept the three roads that connect Franklin to U.S. Highway 69 closed by barricade and taped off.

"We are certainly asking no one to go through those. The access point to this area will be from the north end on Alternate 69 which will be manned every day for I don't know how long," Horton said. "If people want to come in to help friends, that's fine, but we need to verify they are here to help friends and who those friends are."

Horton said emergency officials will be working at contacting everybody and asking them where they are on cleanup efforts and if they need more help.

Horton said that many organizations, including three large church groups, have volunteered to help with cleanup efforts.

The main goal, he said, will be separating material and getting debris to the side of the road.

"We are going to instruct homeowners and volunteers that wood must be piled separate from other material and that this all needs to be placed near the road, not in the road," Horton said.

Horton said cleanup in Ringo is going well.

"They have done an enormous amount of cleanup in Ringo and here in Franklin too, really," Horton said. "But we've got trees that are eight-foot around and there is no way to move them without equipment."

Horton said the reason people need to move material to the roadside is because county employees and/or National Guardsmen who are going to assist in cleanup efforts are not allowed on private property.

"We need to keep the cleanup process going because if we are authorized to use the National Guard for cleanup, when they pull in here they're going to be working. We've requested two loaders and 10 dump trucks, but they cannot go on private property. So everything on private property needs to be moved to the easement to be removed. And that is going to be a headache," Horton said.

Horton said that he understands there are things that will not be able to be moved by hand. He said he would talk to the county to see if there are things emergency workers can do to help with those items.

"But we still can't go on private property. So one thing we need to ask the people, if you are a resident here, please come to the command post, we will need information from you about what help you are going to need," he said. "Right now, it's almost a shame because there is so much work to be done and so many people who want to help but they can't because we are still talking about people's private property. We don't want to get to the point where we are just moving things and homeowners are unaware of what we are doing. A lot of people are going to want to be there."

Staff Writer Joe Noga can be reached at or at 231-2600, Ext. 132.   Back to top

Boil order lifted for residents with undamaged water service
May 9, 2003
FRANKLIN - Franklin-area residents with undamaged water service lines are no longer being advised to boil water, the Kansas Department of Health & Environment said.
Greg Taylor, KDHE environmental scientist, announced the change, along with some conditions, in a fax to Henry Ashbacher of Crawford County Rural Water District No. 2.

Taylor said, "Water service to properties with damaged service lines will not be allowed to resume until substantial residential property cleanup is complete and damaged service lines are located, repaired, flushed, pressure tested, and demonstrate the ability to maintain a chlorine residual for at least 24 hours."

He also said that abandoned service lines must be sealed or removed to reduce the chance of contamination.   Back to top

Crawford County, agencies set up disaster hotlines
May 9, 2003
Morning Sun Staff Writer
In an effort to organized relief and volunteer help, the Crawford County Sheriff's Department and the American Red Cross have set up disaster hotlines for those in need.

"If you need assistance removing debris from your property, we have a list of volunteers that are willing to help. But, your permission is required for them to work on your property," said Crawford County Sheriff Sandy Horton.

Please call the sheriff's department on a designated phone line at 1-620-724-6601.

Horton also said a burn permit is no longer required by the State of Kansas to burn brush and wood. He said there are temporary tree, brush and wood burn sites.

The Ringo burn site is located at 201 S. 190th St and the Franklin burn site is located at 501 S. Vine St.

Horton said, although he has not heard officially that the National Guard will be made available to help remove debris, he is anticipating that happening.

The American Red Cross also has a disaster hotline and according to Joanne Wittner, disaster director for the Pioneer Chapter of the Red Cross in Coffeyville, they are taking calls from anyone effected by Sunday's tornados.

"What we are doing is taking the calls for people in the service center in Arma and we are referring people to where they can get help. If we get people from Missouri that call in then we are referring them to the Joplin chapter of the Red Cross," Wittner said.

Things are kind of hectic. We are trying to get food and drinks into the damaged area around Franklin and down in Cherokee County. It's just so wide spread there are a lot of places to go. We will stay in there as long as needed."

The number to call for assistance from the Red Cross is 1-888-460-1050.

Other phone numbers include:

Kansas Gas Service for gas leak emergencies - 1-888-482-4950

Westar Energy to report power outages - 1-800-544-4857

Kansas One Call for digging 1-800-344-7233

Red Cross Assistance - 1-888-460-1050

FEMA - 1-800-621-3362

Red Cross - 1-888-460-1050.

Staff Writer Joe Noga can be reached at or at 231-2600, Ext. 132.   Back to top

Pets also tornado victims
May 9, 2003
Morning Sun Family Living Editor
Not all the victims of Sunday's tornado are human. Pets were also injured and left homeless, and the Southeast Kansas Humane Society has been working to help them.

"The tornado hit Sunday night, and I got called out of bed at 1:30 a.m. Monday," said Pat Wininger, Humane Society shelter employee. "My daughter Becky and I went 40 hours without sleep trying to rescue animals."

"Some people are really hurting and really desperate," added Mary Kay Caldwell, Humane Society president. "People's pets become part of their family, and they're very concerned about them. A friend of mine finally found her cat, who was over 20 years old and diabetic, and she just sat and cried. Another cat was claimed at the shelter by its owner, and she was just ecstatic. These happy stories mean so much to us."

Because of the magnitude of the disaster, American Humane activated its Red Star Emergency Services and sent two trained national responders to the area to assist the Humane Society.

"The Southeast Kansas Humane Society is completely overwhelmed with trying to care for animals that are lost, injured or homeless as a result of the tornadoes," said Jodi Buckman, American Humane director of shelter services. "They are beyond their capacity and so American Humane is providing our rescue expertise to assist them in any way we can."

"We're very grateful for American Humane's help," Caldwell said. "The national responders have been helping in our search and rescue operations. They've also suggested that we put up a lost and found board at the shelter, and we're doing that. We're also going to run found ads in the newspaper."

American Humane will also help the society establish temporary shelter for animals left homeless, and has been working with PETsMART Charities to coordinate the contribution of large airline crates to assist with moving and holding animals.

Right now the Humane Society has about 20 dogs that have been rescued from tornado debris.

"At one place in Franklin we rescued a little dog who was sitting in a boat on top of a big pile of debris," Wininger said. "He looked so cute sitting there."

Only five cats have been picked up so far, and Caldwell said that traps will be set to catch some of the panicked animals.

"Cats are much harder to get than dogs," Wininger said. "Dogs may back off from you or growl a little, but you can talk to a lot of them and kind of coax them. The cats run off and hide in tiny little places where you can't reach them. But their eyes shine out at you at night, and that will help us know where to put the traps."

Some pets have already been claimed by owners, but some of the owners don't have a home left to take the pets to. "We may need to look at having some foster homes for them," Caldwell said.

She and Wininger said they were deeply grateful for donations of food for the animals. The Triple T Dog Food Company and Natural Live have donated food, and the Pittsburg Police Department has provided five 40-pound bags of dry dog food.

"Tornado victims who need food for their pets can come out to the Humane Society and pick up food," Wininger said. "If they can't come out to get it, we can deliver it to them."

She said that many pets injured in the storm have been taken for medical treatment.

"Some of them belong to people who've lost their homes, their cars, everything," Wininger said. "They can't pay for the vet, so we've set up a 'Save the Animals' fund to pay their expenses."

Donations to the fund may be mailed to the Southeast Kansas Humane Society, P.O. Box 783, Pittsburg, Ks.., 66762. Anyone wishing additional information may call the society at 232-1840.   Back to top

Victims warned against fraud scams
May 9,2003
Morning Sun Staff Writer
Victims of the deadly tornados that swept through the southeast Kansas Sunday night are being warned about to watch out for contractor fraud and offered free legal assistance from Kansas attorneys for questions concerning contracts with contractors.

Crawford County Attorney John Gutierrez and Eric Rosenblad, project director with the Kansas Legal Services, were in Franklin Thursday to warn people affected by the storms to beware of contractors who may not be legitimate.

"People are going to be receiving checks from insurance companies. We know there are not enough local contractors to start rebuilding right away. People should not be in a hurry to start rebuilding. We are worried about transient contractors coming and parting people from their money," Gutierrez said.

Rosenblad expressed concern that storm victims could be preyed upon by dishonest individuals who arrive at the scene of disasters and offer to do repair services to damaged property, but then take the money and leave town.

"We want to help protect residents from unscrupulous companies and scam artists who prey on the misfortune of others," Rosenblad said. "Storm victims need to know that if they need to speak to an attorney, they can do it for free. We want residents to know that these lawyers are well acquainted with their local contractors and business people and they will help ensure that no one is taken advantage of."

Crawford County Sheriff Sandy Horton was also in Franklin Thursday. He said that the roads going into Franklin will remained closed and the entrances will be manned by deputies and identifications checked.

Gutierrez said he was not aware of any problems in Crawford County yet.

But he did mention the two men arrested Monday for looting and that he has had reports of people in Carl Junction, Mo., trying to scam victims out of money.

"That's what we are afraid will start happening in Crawford County," Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez gave several tips for hiring contractors. They include:

* Never hire a contractor who solicits you.

* Never hire a contractor who uses high pressure sales tactics.

* Never hire an unregistered contractor.

* Never hire a supposed registered contractor and not check his registration.

* Always get more than one bid. But beware of the lowest bid, especially if it is significantly lower than the others.

* Always ask for references of local houses they have fixed or built.

* Never agree on a handshake. Get a contract in writing and have your attorney review it.

Attorneys with the Kansas Legal Services (KLS) in Pittsburg, the Crawford County Bar Association, and the Cherokee County Bar Association are offering free legal consultation to residents whose lives have been affected by the storms.

Rosenblad noted scam victims often contact legal representation many months after entering a contract with a fraudulent contractor, after they realize they have been duped.

"By then it's too late," he said. "The scam artists have taken the victim's money and left town for good."

Rosenblad recommended that storm victims visit with local contractors and insurance companies that they, their families, or friends, already know and trust in order to avoid potential problems.

"These unfortunate people have been victimized once by the storms," Rosenblad said. "We don't want them to be victimized a second time because of their vulnerability and desperation. A simple phone call can make all the difference."

Those with questions can contact Kansas Legal Services Inc. at 1-800-723-6953 or the KLS Pittsburg office at 1-620-232-1330.

Staff Writer Joe Noga can be reached at or at 231-2600, Ext. 132.   Back to top

Businesses doing their part during relief effort
May 9,2003
Morning Sun Staff Writer
As the communities in Crawford County have mobilized to help victims of last Sunday's tornadoes, local businesses have chipped in where they could.

"Cooking is my talent," explained Shawn Horseman of Jim's Steak House in Pittsburg. That's why his contribution was to set up his grill and flip nearly 200 burgers for Red Cross and National Guard work crews, volunteers and tornado victims Tuesday.

"Those people have really supported our business for the last 60-something years," he said. The cookout, and donation of the meat, buns, chips and baked beans, was something he could do to return the favor.

"I try to be a good Christian, and that's something I could definitely do," he said.

The Pepsi-Cola Bottling Co. in Pittsburg helped with the cookout, held at the Red Cross shelter in St. Joseph's Parish Hall in Arma, by donating pop.

"It's just helping a friend," explained CEO C.L. Farabi. "We're willing to help whatever we can do up there."

Peter Farabi added, "It's minimal, but we tried to do something at least to show that our support's there with them."

He added, "My cousin was up there that evening (Sunday) and helped round up some cattle. He's the cowboy of the family." The "cowboy" said he didn't want any publicity for those efforts - he was just trying to help.

Besides feeding the hungry recovery crews, local businesses provided clothing for the victims who lost everything except the shirts on their backs.

"We donated more than 1,400 shirts, both long-sleeved and short, for the Red Cross," said employee Bob Scifers.

Mandy Cummings, another employee, said, "We had an employee that lost his house (in Franklin), but we're doing it also as a community effort."

Scifers said he wasn't sure what the company was doing for the employee other than the donations through the Red Cross.

Wal-Mart and Dillon's Stores in Pittsburg also donated food and other goods to the tornado victims.

Wal-Mart spokesperson Wendy Sept explained, "It's a wonderful feeling to give back to the community and to help those in need." She said the store also donated $5,000 to the Pioneer Chapter of the American Red Cross, which operates the shelter and service center in Arma.

Staff Writer Olive Sullivan can be reached at, or at 231-2600, Ext. 134.   Back to top

Salvation Army volunteers making presence known
May 10,2003
Morning Sun Family Living Editor
FRANKLIN - Cold bottled water, salty chips and sandwiches were on the menu Friday at the Salvation Army canteen, along with sunblock, work gloves and cheering words.

The organization has a canteen set up at Seventh and Broadway in Franklin to serve residents as well as workers helping clean up the debris left by Sunday's tornado.

A mobile canteen unit is also traveling throughout the area, stopping to serve people at country homes that were hit by the storm.

Virginia and Frank Soyez, Wichita, have been taking out the canteen van. "We've been retired since 1992, so we've got time to volunteer," she said. "We spent two weeks in Hoisington when they had their tornado."

The couple arrived in Franklin on Tuesday, and will be returning home today. "We'd stay longer, but I'm getting ready to have eye surgery, Mrs. Soyez said.

Food is prepared at the Salvation Army Corps in Pittsburg, then taken to the canteen area for distribution. After just a few days in the area, Soyez has become familiar with the county roads around rural Girard, Franklin and Ringo.

"One nice thing about working at these little towns is that people are so kind," he said. "We've been meeting some of the nicest people in the world."

At each stop his wife opens the van window and offers sandwiches, bottled water or Gatorade, chips and an assortment of packaged cookies and candy bars.

"We push the chips, nuts and sunflower seeds when we have them because people working out under the sun like this need salt," she said. She also loads them down with beverages to help prevent dehydration.

She also had a pot of coffee ready, but only one person wanted any of that.

Along with dispensing food and drink, the couple also takes a few moments to provide a sympathetic ear. As a result, they have heard some amazing stories.

"An older couple lives over there," Soyez said, pointing at a pile of rubble and a tin shed. "They went into the shed, got into the car, figured they didn't have time to go any place so they sat there in the car and prayed the whole time."

The house was destroyed, but the shed, car and couple are fine.

"They usually don't want to take anything from us," Soyez said. "A lot of people are like that - they don't want to ask for help, and they tell us to give to people who need it more than they do. But I don't care what a person has - he could have $1 million for all I care - if he needs a sandwich, he needs a sandwich."

At the Chet Sweet home - or what's left of it - the couple gives out sandwiches, drinks, fruit, chips and cookies. Sweet, who has lost his home and car, remembers the peanut butter sandwich Mrs. Soyez gave him Thursday. "That was the best peanut butter sandwich I ever had," he said.

"If I had any bread, I'd make you one now," she replied. And, after he said that he did have some bread, she spooned some crunchy peanut butter into a cup for him.

"Sometimes it doesn't take much to mean a lot," she noted.

She also gave out sunblock and work gloves. At one work site, her husband stuck his head out the van window and ordered a young woman to "go get some of that sunblock we just gave your mother and put it on. We worry about you."

Mrs. Soyez tries to keep track of what she gives out, and estimates that she distributed 225 sandwiches Wednesday, and about the same Thursday and Friday, plus heaven knows how many cookies, bags of chips and bottles of water.

After the lunch run, she and her husband will be back around later with supper. "We're going to the Corps office in Pittsburg tonight and get the van all clean, stocked and ready for tomorrow," her husband said.

Ila Wood, originally from the Leavenworth area but now living in Camp 50, has been working at the stationary canteen in Franklin.

"I'd seen the need, called the Salvation Army and they put me to work," she said. This canteen has similar supplies to the mobile one, and Wood has been giving out lots of work gloves, sunblock and toiletry items such as toothbrushes and toothpaste.

Shortly before lunch, Merlin Unruh of Christian Disaster Relief came to the canteen. "We've got a crew of 12 in the field," he said. "Can you throw something salty and sweet for them to chew on?"

Wood filled a box with cookies, cupcakes and bags of spicy chips, then added fruit cups and fruit juice.

"This canteen came from Fort Scott, where it's maintained by the Fort Scott Fire Department for the Salvation Army," said Capt. David Womack of the Pittsburg Salvation Army. "It was the first vehicle on the scene."

A large tent was set up Friday by the canteen, with tables and benches, to give people a place to eat.

Womack said that Wood and her fellow volunteers would be even busier next week. "The National Guard will increase its presence next week, and that will mean a lot of mouths to feed," he said.

Numerous religious groups have sent volunteers, and Womack said that he is deeply grateful. "It's amazing how many church groups get out there, roll up their sleeves and get to work," he said.

However, Womack added, many of these visitors will soon have to return to their own homes.

"It's the local volunteers who really make the difference," he said. "Nothing can replace the local citizens who care enough about their neighbors to come out and help."

Anyone wishing to volunteer their services with the Salvation Army may call the Pittsburg office at 231-0415. American Baptist Men Disaster Relief has been cleaning up debris, and anyone wishing to work with them may contact Warren Scott, Scammon, 620-396-8567.   Back to top

County asked to consider Franklin's future
May 10, 2003
Temporary landfill to help cleanup efforts

Morning Sun Staff Writer
GIRARD - Franklin residents are trying to strengthen their community less than a week after a tornado leveled up to one-third of its homes.

John Houck, secretary and treasurer of the Franklin Community Civic Center board, said there will be a public meeting to "discuss the future of Franklin" at 7 p.m. Sunday night at Henry Ashbacher's home on the northeast corner of Second and Broadway.

"Is this a good time to incorporate Franklin?" Houck asked the county commission at its regular Friday meeting.

He also asked the commission to place storm warning sirens and put more effort into a pending sewer system project. Houck said during Sunday's tornado residents could not hear sirens in Frontenac or Arma.

"I assure you that your concerns are our concerns," said Commission Chair Bob Kmiec.

"As far as incorporating," said Commissioner Anthony Pichler, "that is something we will have to look at."

Houck urged the county not to relax restrictions prohibiting single-wide manufactured homes.

"It could be a model community if the rebuilding is done properly," Houck said.

Zoning Administrator Judy Freeman said zoning regulations will not allow a single wide manufactured home to be placed on a temporary basis for more than six months.

Commissioner Tom Moody then verified that regulations will allow all residents to rebuild.

The commission voted to waive building and wastewater permit fees for victims of Sunday's tornados. Residents will still have to complete building and wastewater permit applications.

Houck said the community once tried to get sirens, but the effort faltered. Eldon Bedene, emergency preparedness director, said a siren with a battery backup unit will cost $30,000 to $40,000. Some grant money will be available, but a local match will be needed.

"My personal view is you could raise the money," Houck said.

The commission then asked who would activate the siren. Currently, each city in the county triggers its own sirens. Sheriff Sandy Horton said his office would set off any placed in unincorporated areas.

Over 20 people including Sen. Jim Barone, D-Frontenac; Rep. R.J. Wilson, D-Pittsburg; and Rep. Jerry Williams, D-Chanute, attended the meeting.

Sheriff Sandy Horton combined a sincere thanks with a grime reminder of the tasks ahead during a presentation to the commission.

"I want all the department heads and office holders in the county to know what we are up against," he said before showing an aerial tape of damage.

A deputy first spotted the tornado when it touched down one-mile into the county near McCune. Horton followed it until it left the county.

"We had this thing spotted the whole way," Horton said.

All the county's deputies were heroes and help pull people from the rubble, Horton said.

"I want you to know we did the best we could do with the resources we had available," Horton said.

The sheriff also complimented dispatchers, volunteer firemen, the Kansas Highway Patrol, county road crews, the media, and countless volunteers for their efforts during and after the storm.

"This county is fortunate to have people like this," she said.

In another matter, Bedene said the Kansas National Guard will deploy 40 citizen soldiers, 10 dump trucks, 10 loaders, and a bulldozer to Crawford County on Monday.

Staff Writer Jeff Wells can be reached at or at 231-2600, Ext. 137.   Back to top

Brownback promises aid
May 10,2003
Senator tours area, visits with survivors

Morning Sun Staff Writer
FRANKLIN - Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., spent more than an hour Friday walking through the rubble which once was Franklin.

Brownback listened to survivors' tales and talked with officials about recovery efforts.

The senator questioned Sheriff Sandy Horton about the warning people received before the storm hit, the specifics of the fatalities, and the emergency response.

He also urged victims to contact the Federal Emergency Management Agency for assistance. FEMA will be establishing a disaster recovery center in Arma today to help victims of last weekend's severe storms with disaster aid. The disaster recovery center will open at 1 p.m. today at the Arma Community Center, 508 E. Washington in Arma. The center will remain open until 7 p.m. today and will then be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Sunday through May 17.

Additionally, registration for disaster help can begin immediately by calling FEMA at 1-800-621-3362. For those who are hearing impaired, the number is 1-800-462-7585. The call is free and recovery specialists can take registrations from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week until further notice.

FEMA officials note that the disaster recovering center has been established to help those who have already called the 1-800-462-7585 number for aid and need help filling out forms or need face-to-face answers. Additionally, there will be telephones at the aid center for those who need to call the number, but do not currently have a home phone.

Brownback said the federal relief will try to make it to where people will want to return to the community. He vowed to help rebuild Franklin's post office, civic center, and improve the sewage system.

"In working some of these in the past, now is the time to address some of those issues that can actually let your community come back because otherwise you don't know if some of these communities will even come back if you don't really give them an anchor to build around," Brownback said.

"I hope people in the area will put together a plan of what it is we need to rebuild Franklin and what are the specifics," he said.

Robert Craig Stokes, chairman of Crawford County Water District No. 7, said the majority of the community's residents have low incomes and 22 percent are over age 65.

"When you have something of this scale happen - it is seen across the world," Brownback said. "I have had a number of people in Washington come up to me and say 'you really got hit by storms.' The last thing the federal government wants to do is contribute to the long term debilitation of an area. Losing a post office hurts an area. I think we will be able to get that rebuilt and we'll work to get that done."

He said the federal government usually pays for a portion of the disaster cleanup in the form of reimbursing local communities for the work that they have done and the time and overtime. Assistance for victims can include:

* Rental payments for temporary housing for those whose homes are unlivable. Initial assistance is provided for up to three months for homeowners and at least one month for renters. Assistance may be extended if requested after the initial period based on a review of individual applicant requirements.

* Grants for home repairs and replacement of essential household items not covered by insurance to make dwellings safe, sanitary and functional.

* Grants to replace personal property and help meet medical, dental, funeral, transportation and other serious disaster-related needs not covered by insurance or other federal, state and charitable aid programs.

* Unemployment payments up to 26 weeks for workers who temporarily lost jobs because of the disaster and who do not qualify for state benefits, such as self-employed individuals.

* Low-interest loans to cover residential losses not fully compensated by insurance. Loans available up to $200,000 for primary residence; $40,000 for personal property, including renter losses. Loans available up to $1.5 million for business property losses not fully compensated by insurance.

* Loans up to $1.5 million for small businesses that have suffered disaster-related cash flow problems and need funds for working capital to recover from the disaster's adverse economic impact. This loan in combination with a property loss loan cannot exceed a total of $1.5 million.

* Loans up to $500,000 for farmers, ranchers and aquaculture operators to cover production and property losses, excluding primary residence.

* Other relief programs: Crisis counseling for those traumatized by the disaster; income tax assistance for filing casualty losses; advisory assistance for legal, veterans benefits and social security matters.

"For all the devastation, I'm amazed that there was not more harm and loss of life," Brownback said. "There must have been some real miracles that happened.  It is terrible to have any loss of life and I'm thankful that there is not more."

Staff Writer Jeff Wells can be reached at or at 231-2600, Ext. 137.   Back to top

Twisters unfortunately synonymous with Kansas
May 11, 2003
Crawford County history filled with violent storms

Morning Sun Family Living Editor
According to "Kansas, a Cyclopedia of State History," edited by Frank Blackmar in 1912, the cultivation of the land and planting of trees across the state made it "probable that in a few years destructive storms will be a thing of the past."

"Kansas" is considered to be a reliable source of information on the state's early history, but the authors obviously should have stuck with history and not tried to predict the weather.

Aside from the years 1883 and 1884, when no tornadoes were reported anywhere in the state, Kansas has been plagued by the violent windstorms and even achieved national notice because of them.

One of the most famous works by artist John Steuart Curry, born in Dunavant, ., Ks.was "Tornado Over Kansas," showing a farm family taking refuge in their cellar as a twister approaches.

Crawford County has its own share in this history. The latest entry, of course, is the May 4 tornado which demolished much of Franklin and Ringo and killed three persons.

These were the first tornado deaths in the county since March 15, 1982, when a tornado killed Judith James, 41, Mulberry.

According to Morning Sun accounts, that storm entered southeast Kansas by way of Montgomery County, killing one person in Tyro, near the Oklahoma state line, and another in Hallowell in Cherokee County.

The storm entered Crawford County near McCune around 7 p.m., where it destroyed two mobile homes, then followed Gooding Road south of Girard and inflicted heavy damage on several farms.

The funnel followed a zigzag path across the county first apparently headed for Girard, then moving in the direction of Pittsburg. Both towns escaped with little damage, though the roof was blown off Medicalodge South.

After flattening a few homes in the Arma area, the twister moved into Mulberry around 8 p.m. and unleashed it's full fury.

In addition to killing James, who was found surrounded by the debris of her mobile home, the storm leveled 50 homes, damaged another 90, and also demolished a grocery store which Francis Buche had operated for 35 years in downtown Mulberry. Damage was estimated at around $2.5 million.

Later storms caused no deaths, but did inflict notable damage. On June 22, 1987, a tornado touched down at Crawford State Lake, Farlington. Two witnesses saw the funnel moving across the lake, downing two boat docks and severely damaging the marina and restaurant at the lake. Three concrete pillars, weighing between 50 and 100 pounds each, were blown onto the marina roof.

Damaged less seriously were the fish hatchery, several campers with tents and a boat storage building.

Tornadoes usually occur in the spring and summer, which was why everybody was so surprised at 4:55 p.m. Nov. 9, 1988, when Pittsburg, which was under a severe thunderstorm alert at the time, was struck by a funnel.

A Pittsburg Police Department patrol unit spotted the twister as it touched down at 20th and 69 Bypass. Two county buildings there - one of brick and the other of tin - were destroyed, and windows of the Social and Rehabilitation Service building were blown out.

As the twister moved on, it blew out windows and damaged the roof of Dillon's, and hit the sun room on the west side of Wendy's. Overall damage was estimated at around $250,000, but only a few minor injuries were reported.

The Mulberry tornado was probably the most destructive Crawford County storm of the 20th century - and the May 4 tornado is certainly an early entry for the worst storm of the 21st century.

However, the most deadly tornado so far in recorded Crawford County history occurred on May 22, 1873. An account of it can be found in Andrea's "History of Kansas," published in 1883.

This storm twister came across the southeast corner of Neosho County and crossed Crawford County in a northwesterly direction. By the time it left, the storm had claimed seven lives, including three children.

Victims, according to "History of Kansas," were "Mrs. Hezekiah Smith, Uriah Spurgeon, a baby of Mr. Roseberry's, one of G.W. Surgeon's, Frankie Dumbauld, a child of Mrs. Hooper's and Ellen Hammond."

A total of 34 people were injured, 15 houses were demolished and property loss was estimated at $4,457.

The tremendous winds carried one boy, identified only as "a son of Mr. Black," over a peach orchard. He was not injured. Not quite as lucky was John Spurgeon, 8, who was carried about 100 yards by the wind and suffered a broken thigh.

Two horses were in a log stable hitched to one of the logs. Their stable was blown down and the horses were found a quarter of a mile away, uninjured and still hitched to the log.

Survivors of the May 4 tornado will be eligible for federal assistance and insurance benefits. Such things weren't available in 1873, but, according to "History of Kansas," the Crawford County Commission did provide what assistance it could.

According to the Andreas account, the commission paid out $625 to Mrs. Hooper, $200 to John Frogge, $100 each to William Blaylock, F.H. Dumbauld and B.R. Addis, and $50 each to W.T. Gunn and Theodore Metcalf.   Back to top

Franklin incorporation discussed
May 12, 2003

FRANKLIN - Sitting on chairs salvaged from the ruins of their civic center, Franklin residents gathered Sunday at the home of Henry Ashbacher to discuss the future of the small community.

"We just want to get Franklin rebuilt in a cost-effective way, quickly," said Robert Craig Stokes, chairman of Crawford County Rural Water District No. 7, which covers Franklin.

Issues discussed included reconstruction of the Franklin Civic Center and the post office, the proposed sewer system and formally incorporating the community as a city.

The sewer had been a need for some years, Stokes said. "Ron Pommier and I have been trying to get a sewer for the past five years," he said, and a grant of more than $350,000 had been obtained before the tornado hit.

There is also a signed contract with the city of Arma to treat Franklin sewage, he added. "This would benefit both our communities," Stokes said. "Sewers will be a key element in rebuilding Franklin."

He advised letting legislators know how desperately Franklin needs a sewer. "I think it would be stupid if the state didn't help us get a sewer now," Stokes said.

"State Sen. Jim Barone and U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback have both told me that they'll do everything they can to help us obtain grants," said Franklin resident Joe Cukjati.

Franklin's post office was housed in a leased building, said postmaster Kathy Shaffer. She added that the owner has indicated her intention to rebuild it.

Stokes said that funding to replace the community center would likely come from the Public Assistance Program. "I've looked at the eligibility guidelines, and as far as I can tell, we fall under them," he said.

"I think we should shoot high for our community center," Cukjati said. "It could be the binding force for our community."

Shelly Phillips Corley, president of the civic center's board, said the board believes the new center should include a community storm shelter.

Another issue is obtaining a storm siren to let Franklin residents know when they need to take shelter. While people living in some areas of the community can hear the Arma siren when it sounds, others can't.

John Houck said the cost of one siren could run from $30,000 to $40,000. "There could be grants that would cover 75 percent or more of the cost," he added.

Stokes took names of people to serve on committees for the center, siren and sewers. Another committee also was formed to explore the steps needed to incorporate Franklin.

One member of that committee is Ron Pommier. "I feel that incorporation is about five years past due," he said. "We need to be Franklin, not Girard rural route or a suburb of Arma. Then we can be a community and go to the polls to vote for what we want."

Stokes said that if Franklin did become incorporated, the community would be responsible for its own street repairs, street lights, police and fire protection.

"I have spoken with the League of Kansas Municipalities, and was told that we could contract with the county for road maintenance and police service," Pommier said.

Little disagreement was voiced about incorporation. However, there was controversy when Cukjati passed out copies of a petition he had drafted opposing doublewide (manufactured) home construction in Franklin for a three-year period.

He said that he feared "unscrupulous investors" would buy up property in Franklin and put up substandard rental housing.

"If we get people in here building insubstantial structures instead of nice substantial homes, if we get full of doublewide houses, we're not going to grow and nothing will want to come in here," Cukjati said. "We have a chance to start a new town."

"I've lived in a doublewide since 1971, and I see a lot of doublewides that look better than regular houses," said Walt Swezey.

"I run a construction company, and I feel Joe's opinions are very good on one hand," Ashbacher said. "On the other hand, I feel people should have the right to do as they please on their own property."

"I ordered a new modular home Friday, and it will be here in two weeks," said Allen Napier. "It will be nice - I'm not putting trash in."

Ashbacher suggested contacting the Crawford County Regional Planning and Zoning Commission to see what measures could be taken to prevent landlords from buying up lots in the community. "I really fear this will snowball on us unless we act immediately," he said.

Other items discussed included the old sidewalk that ran from Franklin to Arma. "It was a WPA project in the 1930s, and I remember when it was built," said Margaret Kennedy. "While we're talking about rebuilding the rest of the community, we shouldn't forget the sidewalk."

Phyllis Liposek Bitner, of Arma, said that she has established a Web site for Franklin, Anyone who wishes may put memories of the community or list needs on the site. She added that she has been getting numerous inquiries from people around the nation who want to know how they can help Franklin recover from the disaster.

Another community meeting to discuss all these issues is set for 7 p.m. on May 18.

Family Living Editor Nikki Patrick can be reached at 231-2600, Ext. 142, or   Back to top

Surveying the devastation
May 13,2003
Morning Sun Staff Writer
U.S. Rep. Jim Ryun traveled to Franklin Monday, surveying the damage left by the devastating tornado that tore across Crawford County on May 4, leaving piles of rubble, broken trees and vacant lots in its wake.

Ryan, R-Kansas, said he was amazed and shocked at the amount of damage and said government leaders are doing everything they can to help storm victims.

"And at the same time, the fact that only one person was killed here seems like an answer to prayer if you can bring that into the equation when you consider the size and magnitude," he said. "I lived through the Topeka tornado that went through in 1966. In fact, I was working as a staff photographer and was out photographing and this reminds me so much of that tornado. It's like a flashback."

Ryun said staff from his office have been in Franklin from the beginning and he has heard reports of a community that rushed to the aid of their fellow citizens. Not just in Franklin, Ringo and in other parts of the county, but also in other communities effected by their own ravaging tornados.

"We are going to do everything we can to help," he said. "We have already been working with FEMA. We are trying to find some other assistance. But when you see this, what do you say? It's just so shocking to see this devastation. To think that there were 50 homes in here is amazing."

Ryun said he was unsure as to how much the federal government will be able to help, but added that he plans to request as much aid as possible.

"We are asking the federal government to step in," he said. "Often when they come in, they ask the state to take care of 25 percent. But we are asking them to take up 100 percent because of state budget issues. So we are looking at that and there are other alternatives we are looking at too."

Curt Musgrave, director of response and recovery for region seven of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and David Talley, public information officer for the U.S. Small Business Administration, were with Ryun Monday.

"We have set up the disaster recovery center in Arma where a lot of state and federal agencies have gathered and give information out on what programs are available to people who have been impacted by this," Musgrave said.

Musgrave noted that there are two separate declarations for damage assistance from FEMA.

"The first is individual assistance. The main point with individual assistance is that everybody who received any damage needs to call 1-800-621-3362. They need to call that and get registered," he said. "Secondly, the public assistance side has to do with infrastructure damage - city hall, building and that type of stuff. That will be handled differently. The main point we want to get across right now is that everybody, whether they had insurance or not, if they had any type of damage, call the 1-800 number and register."

Talley added that anyone with any damage should register.

"People do not have to take a loan," he said. "Some people are on a limited or fixed income. It is important that they still go ahead and register because if they don't qualify for a loan, they will be referred back to FEMA for a grant. But if they don't fill the application out the process stops. We've got people at the center to fill out the applications for them. They have better things to be doing than sitting under a tree filling out an application."

Ryun said the purpose of his visit was to gain a first hand look of the extent of the damage, and to see where the most help was needed.

"We are doing everything we possibly can. I know in this particular area there are a lot of senior citizens and quite a few who are disabled," he said. "That adds to the incredible experience they had and the wonder that there weren't more injured and killed."

Staff Writer Joe Noga can be reached at or at 231-2600, Ext. 132.     Back to top

Emerson outlines procedure for Franklin to pursue incorporation
May 14, 2003
Morning Sun Staff Writer
GIRARD - Franklin could try to incorporate, according to County Counselor Jim Emerson, who reported on the idea at the regular county commission meeting Tuesday morning.

The question came up at Friday's meeting, when John Houck, secretary and treasurer of the Franklin Community Civic Center board, asked how to go about it.

Emerson reported that the first step is for Franklin residents to submit a petition requesting incorporation to the county clerk. It must be signed by at least 50 members of the territory. The territory to be incorporated must have at least 300 residents.

That could be a problem for Franklin, since the population of the little town is estimated at about 200. Another complication is that Franklin is within five miles of an incorporated city. Emerson said that means there are six additional factors to be considered by the county commission when it holds a public hearing between 30 and 90 days after the petition is filed.

One of Houck's goals for incorporation is to get storm sirens; that's a separate issue, according to county zoning administrator Judy Freeman. She reported by memo that the county could apply for a Hazard Mitigation grant through FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The grant would have a match of 25 percent; moneys could be earmarked for sirens and community storm shelters.

There are also Project Impact Grants available which could be used for storm shelters at private residences.

The commission will continue looking into these issues.

Commissioner Tom Moody said he had visited Franklin before the meeting. He reported that National Guard units started cleanup work there Tuesday morning.

"We've made some headway," he said, but he said he believes the National Guard, with its heavy equipment, will quickly make a big difference.

Labette County also has sent some 25 youth from the county boot camp to help with the cleanup in Franklin. "They've really worked hard up there," Moody reported.

"I don't think it will ever be the same after the devastation that went on up there, but we're making headway," he added.

Moody also reported that the county health department is providing tetanus shots for cleanup crews.

He said, too, that the roads in Franklin are suffering some damage due to the heavy truck traffic. He hopes FEMA will be able to help with the expense of future repairs.

In other business, Emerson reported on the idea of using a sales tax to fund county health services. He said it would have to go before the voters for approval if the commission wants to proceed with the idea.

Commissioner Anthony Pichler said he does want to look into it, but doesn't want to hold a special election at additional cost. He also suggested tying road and bridge funding to a sales tax.

"I think more people would be happy with sales tax for six months or so," he said.

"I think it's the fairest tax," Commissioner Bob Kmiec agreed.

However, since the next scheduled election won't take place until August 2003, the proposal won't help with the rest of this fiscal year, Pichler said.

He said he has also been considering liquor sales on Sunday to help the state and counties out of the budget crunch. Already Sunday liquor sales are taking place in Wyandotte County, and Pichler pointed out Crawford County residents already travel just three miles to Missouri if they wish to imbibe on Sundays.

"If that's more revenue, we should do it," he said. "I'm against selling it on Sunday, too, but why not get that revenue? Why not propose it?"

Pichler said he wants to wait to see how the plan works in Wyandotte County, adding, "I just cannot see putting a mill levy on the people, but they're forcing us to do it, the state is."

The commissioners also discussed the Alamo mowers, purchased last year, saying road crews have had "nothing but trouble" with them. Two are currently down. Pichler said he wants Caterpillar to make good on the machines or replace them.

"I agree. We've been fighting this since day one," Moody said.

In other business, the commission:

* approved a transfer of funds from Baker Lighting District to the county general fund for 2002;

* authorized cancellation of outstanding warrants (checks) over two years old.

The commission meets twice a week, Tuesdays and Fridays at 10 a.m. in the commission room at the courthouse in Girard.

Staff Writer Olive Sullivan can be reached at, or at 231-2600, Ext. 134.   Back to Top

National Guard joins cleanup efforts
May 14, 2003
Morning Sun Staff Writer
Guardsmen from the National Guard 891st Company A of Pittsburg were in Franklin again Tuesday, but this time they were cleaning up the debris left by the deadly tornado that laid a path of destruction across Crawford County on May 4.

After the storms had passed, 10 guardsmen from the 891st were deployed to help provide security in and around Franklin. Now, according to Crawford County Sheriff Sandy Horton, the guardsmen will be loading and hauling all the debris to the temporary dump sites.

"What can be burned will be burned and what can't be burned will be put in the landfill and covered up," Horton said. "They brought in 10 dump trucks, two loaders, a bulldozer and the crew total will be about 45 guardsmen."

At 4:22 p.m. on Sunday, the National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for Crawford. Officials in Labette County notified the Crawford County sheriff's department of a funnel cloud in their county heading towards Crawford County.

Crawford County sheriff's deputies reported a tornado on the ground five miles north and four miles west of McCune. The tornado traveled in a northeast direction for 26 miles until it exited Crawford County.

In the storm's wake, 19 people were taken to area hospitals and three Crawford County residents were killed. Nearly 100 homes were destroyed, several livestock killed, crops destroyed, a radio tower fell, power lines were down and at least 19 railroad cars derailed near Mulberry.

"The guard was in there for five or six days doing security and then they were released once the sheriff's department was able to take over 100 percent of it," Horton said. "It's mostly the same crew, but they are no longer providing the security functions."

Lt. Brent Neal of the 891st said they also have detachments from Fort Scott and Coffeyville helping with the cleanup efforts.

"We have some front loaders and then we have dump trucks loading debris and moving it to the dump pile," Neal said. "We will be moving the debris from the road edge to the dump pile."

Neal said the group is set up to stay for two weeks, but he said, if it takes longer to get the county cleaned up then they will stay.

"But, hopefully, we can get done soon enough we can all have a nice holiday weekend. That is what we are shooting for," Neal said.

Neal said that the guard will work through the rain but if lightning starts striking close to where men are working, they will shut their equipment down.

Horton said he appreciates the National Guard's help.

According to Horton, the county has been cleaning up, along with help from the cities of Arma, Fort Scott and Parsons

Horton said the plan now is for the guard to do most of the cleanup work in Franklin while county crews clean up south of Mulberry and in Ringo.

"Hopefully, within two weeks a lot of the debris will be removed and disposed of properly," Horton said.

Staff Writer Joe Noga can be reached at or at 231-2600, Ext. 132.   Back to Top

Some examinations provided by life, not classroom
PSU students forgo final to help clean up tornado-wracked Ringo
May 15, 2003
Morning Sun Staff Writer
RINGO - Given the choice of taking a two-hour final or spending the day helping clean up tornado damage in Ringo and Franklin, a group of Pittsburg State University students unanimously chose to help out.

"The Department of Health, Physical Education and Recreation has a long history of providing service to the community," explained Dr. Scott Gorman, professor at PSU.

Besides, he was spending his own free time volunteering in Carl Junction to help clean up damage from the devastating storm system that nearly leveled Franklin and Ringo as well. "If you don't see something like that first-hand, you don't know," he said.

He explained that picking up debris also helps the mental state of storm victims, making their houses look a little more like home even before the major damage is fixed.

Gorman gave the students the choice between taking a regular written final or joining the clean up crews, then started looking for someplace nearby to work.

Gorman said he first asked students if they had friends or family that needed help. Jill Smardo, Frontenac junior, led a crew Tuesday to help family in Franklin area. "Their entire house was knocked down," the professor said.

The rest of Gorman's classes spread out in Ringo.

Taking a break from clearing debris from the back yard of 77-year-old Esther Askins Wednesday, Gorman said, "Today we've got two classes out here." Another class will meet at Askins' house today.

And even with several students working all day, there's plenty to do. Askins was one of the lucky ones in that her house was relatively untouched. Some roof shingles blew away, but that wasn't much of a problem until the rains hit this week. Now, her son Cliff Askins says, "It leaks like a sieve."

There are two houses and a couple of sheds on the Askins property. One house was used as a "library." Its roof is intact, but the wind blew out every single window and actually moved the structure off its foundation. "We'll probably pull it down," Cliff Askins said.

The shed, built solidly of brick, was missing a roof - and most of two walls. Another shed made of World War II vintage ammunition cases, was mostly gone.

The house next door was much more severely damaged. Askins said, "What hit us hit us from the north, but the guys to the south of us really got plastered."

The worst damage, from Esther Askins' point of view, was to the yard she called "her little corner of Arkansas," according to her son. She had an orchard of fruit trees and flower beds that were stripped clean (although the blackberry bushes survived). Her chicken pen was demolished, but the chickens are fine, pecking about the feet of the students who rebuilt their pen.

"The chickens have been going crazy all day long. I don't think they're used to this many people around," said Maureen "Mo" Williams, one of the students. "The dog was excited, too. I don't think he usually sees them out of the pen."

Williams said she spent her whole day at the Askins place, talking to Mrs. Askins as well as picking up shingles, pop cans and debris of all types. "I got a tetanus shot, too. That was fun," she said wryly. The health department is giving shots to all clean up crews, just to be safe.

"We helped clean out her garage, which was horrible," Williams continued. "Inside she had a bunch of pictures and old letters, and they were just soaked. ... The only thing she wanted out of the shed was a real pretty green lamp. That was the only thing that made her smile."

Her son, however, said she'll be OK. "She's pretty tough."

Aaron King, a sophomore from Pleasanton, was hard at work on the chicken pen. "I like hard work," he said. "I'd rather do hard work than sit in a classroom anyway."

Like the other Pitt State students, he was surprised by the storm's aftermath.

"I saw some weird stuff - a toilet set up in a tree, and then some of the small stuff you'd think it would tear up, it didn't. The bird houses are still up, and other stuff is just gone."

Askins has a number of bird houses and yard ornaments hanging in the trees. One tree was badly damaged - the branches were literally wrapped around the trunk, woven into an impenetrable mass. In another, the branch above the bird house was ripped away. But the bird houses were untouched.

Chris Lutz, Eureka senior, and Caleb White, Minneola senior, said they have seen tornado damage before, in the 1996 storms that wiped out Andover. Still, they saw some interesting things at Askins' where they were helping with the chicken pen. "There's old, old trees, huge trees, just uprooted," Lutz said. "It's crazy."

"We cleaned out a lot of old fence that was just wrapped around the trees out back," Williams added. She said she also saw, in Franklin, a trampoline wrapped around a light pole like a hot dog bun.

The students also found a three-legged cat, a storm survivor whose injury was an old one, hiding in a culvert. They called animal control to rescue it. "That's one of the most interesting things we've found," Williams said.

"We're really grateful for these guys," Cliff Askins said. "We had no idea they were coming. We've had Mennonites and convict labor and Boy Scouts and a lot of relatives helping out. The Salvation Army, Red Cross, insurance companies and FEMA have also stopped by to see what could be done to help.

"We had no idea we were going to get this much help," he said.

Joking, he added, "I wonder, since they're the physiology class and they're building the chicken pen, what are the construction students going to do?"

Even though a lot has been accomplished in the week and a half since the storms, from the sight of Askins' neighborhood, there will still be plenty of work for any volunteers that come along, construction students or not.

Gorman said the students' efforts were augmented by help from local businesses: Broadway Lumber donated fencing supplies and True Value provided landscape timbers.

Staff Writer Olive Sullivan can be reached at, or at 231-2600, Ext. 134.  Back to Top

Disaster Child Care offering free services for many area residents
May 16, 2003
Lifestyle Editor
Starting today, free child care will be provided for southeast Kansas and Carl Junction, Mo., area residents who were impacted by the May 4 tornadoes.

Care will be available from noon to 8 p.m. for children aged 6 and younger at the United Methodist Campus Center, 201 E. Williams.

Disaster Child Care is a program of Emergency Response/Service Ministries of the Church of the Brethren General Board, based at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md.

"While their parents or guardians work with clean-up and other activities related to the disaster, they may bring the children to us," said Lorna J. Grow, project manager.

She said that a crew of five persons, all volunteers, will come in from Iowa to serve as staff. "All of the caregivers are trained and certified, and have undergone background checks," she said.

Grow said that Disaster Child Care was established in 1980. "Our national disaster coordinator at the time realized that children weren't being cared for during times of disaster," she said. "He went to the national office and worked with a child development specialist to develop this program. In 1980 we provided our first child care, at a flood in Kalamazoo, Mich."

While this is a Church of the Brethren ministry, Grow said that the program is ecumenical, with volunteers from many denominations and faith communities.

They are trained to provide personal attention, comfort and acceptance to children whose homes and families have been impacted by a disaster, as well give these children the opportunity and encouragement to express their feelings through appropriate play activities. They can also provide information, counsel and comfort to parents, other disaster workers, churches, schools and the community concerning the impact of disaster on children.

Volunteers sometimes have to provide these services in difficult situations.

"We've done child care under stairwells, in closets and garages," Grow said, adding that she is very grateful to have the use of facilities at the United Ministries Center.

Disaster Child Care works in cooperation with the American Red cross, and also networks with other agencies.

Grow said that no time line has been set regarding the presence of Disaster Child Care in the area.

"This will be dictated by the need," she said. "If there aren't any children who need care, we'll pack up and go home. If there are, we'll be here."
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County urges continued work on Franklin sewer district
May 17, 2003

Morning Sun Staff Writer
GIRARD - Crawford County Commissioners urged continued work on the Franklin sewer district during their regular meeting Friday morning.

Michelle Black, Midwest Assistance Program, who coordinates the project with USDA Rural Development Service, said there was some concern over how many people in Franklin would rebuild. If very few did so, she said, the sewer project would have to be revised.

Commissioners Bob Kmiec and Anthony Pichler said there was no doubt the community would rebuild, and John Houck, representing the town, said the rebuilding has already started.

"We want to get all of them going," Pichler said, referring to sewer projects in Farlington and Radley as well as Franklin, "but right now, Franklin No. 3 is the one we need to push real hard."

He added, "I think if you had the sewer going in, I think more people would build.

The question is one of funding. The system is paid for by a charge to each household hooking onto the system, but if there are no houses there, who should be charged? Pichler suggested adding a special assessment to the lots for the time being, just to get the project started. The assessment would cover debt service; there would be no monthly wastewater treatment charge until there was a house hooked to the system and using it.

"It didn't blow the land away," Pichler said.

Black said if too few people choose to rebuild, there could still be a sewer project, it would just have to be scaled down.

"I disagree with that," Pichler said. "You're going to have them back." He said the people in Franklin need some definite information before rebuilding so they know what's in store.

Houck said, "There's been so much desire for these lots already. There are probably 10 houses under construction right now. The houses will be there before the sewer's done." He explained, "Because of the proximity to Pittsburg, it's a good sleeper community."

Pat Misasi, county environmental director, said USDA Rural Development agent Dale Yeager has scheduled a meeting at Franklin this week to discuss these issues. The commission asked to be kept informed.

In other business, Crawford County Sheriff Sandy Horton appeared before the commission to ask about assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the wake of the tornadoes which struck the county May 4. He asked whether commissioners wanted the road and bridge department and sheriff's department to apply as separate entities, or whether they preferred to apply as the county as a whole. Commissioners said for him to apply as the county entire.

The commission also announced that the courthouse would be closed May 26 for the observance of Memorial Day.

Staff Writer Olive Sullivan can be reached at, or at 231-2600, Ext. 134.   Back to top

Franklin sewer financing in question after tornado
May 19, 2003

Morning Sun Family Living Editor
FRANKLIN - Franklin residents gathered for the second time Sunday to discuss plans for the community's recovery from the May 4 tornado.

Dale Yager of Iola, a rural development specialist with the federal Rural Development Agency, was present to discuss the community's proposed sewer project.

The project had been well underway before the tornado struck, he said. "They've been working on this for five or six years, and had pretty well gotten over the humps," Yager said. "We'd gotten a pretty workable project, with us as the lender to fund the sewer development."

He had been in the process of doing his environmental review and had, he said, no adverse comments.

However, since the tornado struck, funding has become an issue. User fees would be needed to pay for the sewer system, and the proposed system was based upon having approximately 159 houses hooked up to it.

"We want to target an average rate that is reasonable, around $25 per user per month," Yager said.

Now there are fewer homes to hook into the sewer - 50 homes were totally destroyed by the tornado, and others were severely damaged. The owners may or may not choose to rebuild in Franklin.

"We don't want to put in a nearly $2 million sewer project, and the folks who are left have to pay for it," Yager said. "We don't want to saddle you with a debt you can't handle."

"I believe that once the sewer system goes in, the number of users will increase dramatically," said Henry Ashbacher, who owns a construction company. "The sooner the sewer goes in, the sooner this community will prosper."

For the time being, Yager said that he would complete his environmental review, and asked for a copy of the agreement the Crawford County Commission had signed with the city of Arma to treat sewage from Franklin. The community will look at the number of potential sewer users.

If the sewer project does go forward, Yager said it could be in operation in about a year.

Another proposed way to help the small community to grow was for it to become incorporated. However, community's size may be a stumbling block.

"In order for us to become incorporated, we have to show that we have 300 inhabitants," Ron Pommier reported.

Because Franklin is located within five miles of an incorporated city, other factors also must be considered, according to Kansas statutes, including the size and population of that city, its growth in population, industry and business during the past 10 years, extension of its boundaries in the past 10 years, the probability of its growth toward the unincorporated territory during the ensuing 10 years, the willingness of the city to annex the territory and its ability to provide city services in case of annexation, and the general effect upon the entire community should there be additional cities in the area.

Also discussed was the need to rebuild the community center. Shelly Phillips Corey said that a committee had gone to Hepler to see its new community center, built with a Community Block Development Grant.

Joe Cukjati said that he spoke with Ken Webb of Gold Bank regarding the possibility of a Pritchett Trust grant for the community center.

"He was friendly and optimistic that he could get some funds for Franklin," Cukjati said. "He said that the project would have to be associated with women and children, so we might consider something like a basketball court for the kids outside the center."

Petitions are also being circulated to call for the rebuilding of the Franklin Post Office. Postmaster Kathy Shaffer said that the U.S. Postal Service had not made a decision on the rebuilding.

To keep the community informed about rebuilding efforts, a community bulletin board will placed in the parking lot of the old community center.

Also, an Internet site has been established at where the public can leave notes, ask questions and provide suggestions. It also has a number of photographs.

Another town meeting will be at 7 p.m. on May 25. "Hopefully, people will keep coming to the meetings and we can get thinks done quickly," said Robert Craig Stokes, chairman of Crawford County Rural Water District No. 7, who conducted the meeting. "We need to do things quickly so that we can keep people in Franklin."

Family Living Editor Nikki Patrick can be reached at or 231-2600, Ext. 142.   Back to top

Celebrate Youth - Kids of the Week
PHS students help with clean-up efforts

May 20, 2003

A group of Pittsburg High School students have stepped up to prove they care about their community  and those they share it with.

On Saturday, a large group of PHS students volunteered their time to help with clean-up efforts in Franklin in the wake of the May 4 tornado which destroyed several homes in the community.

The effort was organized and then coordinated by PHS junior Catherine Guo, who worked not only to arrange the workday, but to raise money for relief efforts.

Guo noted that she is not originally from Pittsburg and had never witnessed the devastation of a tornado before.

I saw what was on television and it really scared me that an F4 tornado could destroy our community like that, she said.

Guo added that, as far as she knew, few high school students had helped with clean-up efforts.  So, she felt PHS students needed to take the initiative to lend a hand.

Guo then spoke to officials at PHS, who told her they believed aiding in the clean-up efforts was a great idea.  She then collected volunteers and went rom classroom to classroom gathering donations for efforts to help tornado victims.

"I wanted to give students at PHS an opportunity to help," she said.  "Basically, we just went out there for the greater good. To help our neighbors."

During Saturday's work day, the students labored for more than three hours to both help clear limbs and trash from the area near the emergency command post at Seventh and Broadway in Franklin and to collect children's toys and clothing scattered by the twister.

"We desperately wanted to help the Franklin residents," Guo said.  "Even though we were not hit, we wanted them to know that someone cares."

PHS students who participated in Saturday's clean-up included: Guo, Josh Weston, Elizabeth Hufford, Ashley Lopez, Cassie Buffington, Shawn Bauer, Jerrad Mitchell, Jessica Rider, April Green, Melissa Troth, Leigh Polchlopek, Matt Plank, Gabe Welling, Megan Mallatt, Jana Starkweather, Katie Ladler, Sam Chiapetti, Katie McCurdy, Daniel Tiram, Jeremy Kelly, Daniel Tirawi, Erin DeLee and Jan Ross.  Although he is not a PHS student, Zach Dickson also helped with Saturday's efforts.       Back to top

Leaders invite Franklin to join Arma
May 26, 2003

Leaders invite Franklin to join Arma
Lifestyle Editor
FRANKLIN - Residents of tornado-battered Franklin received an invitation Sunday night to become part of Arma.

Rock Anderson, Arma mayor, and Bill Toschi, Arma City Council member, were present at the latest Franklin community meeting to discuss the possibility of Arma's annexing the smaller community.

"We want you to know that Arma has no intention of coming down and gobbling up Franklin," Anderson said. "Our intent is to lend a helping hand."

He said that, if Franklin's recovery efforts don't work out as planned, the City of Arma "is willing to merge our two communities, and a lot of good things can happen with the merge. If all else fails, give us a yell."

Bill LaSota, Franklin resident, asked for details about those good things, and Anderson responded by listing police and fire protection, electric utilities, water service and sewer service.

"In Arma we pay $15 per month for sewer service," Anderson said. "We've also got two cable companies for those who like to watch TV."

Toschi acknowledged that, in the past, there had been some ill will between the two communities.

"We should throw out all those bad things we said about each other 30 or 40 years ago," he said. "If we become all one big community, it will give us a voice in Crawford County."

"I don't think that Franklin will grow unless it's annexed," LaSota said. "I think a lot of people here feel the same way."

"You say that a lot of people here want annexation, Bill, but you're the only one I hear saying it," said Henry Ashbacher, Franklin.

"You're talking about a lot of studies that would have to be done, and a lot of paperwork," said Robert Craig Stokes, chairman of Rural Water District No. 7, who presided at the meeting.

He suggested that Arma officials put together a packet of information about water rates, city ordinances, etc., and bring them to the next Franklin community meeting.

"If anybody has any questions, we'll do our best to answer them," Toschi said.

Stokes added that Franklin residents appreciated all the help Arma had given following the May 4 tornado.

"You were among the first here to help, digging out people," he said. "The help from all the area communities has been phenomenal."

Reports were also given on the proposed Franklin sewer project. Stokes said that the environmental report had been completed and would be published as required. The signed contract between the Crawford County Commission and the City of Arma to treat Franklin sewage has been sent to Topeka for approval.

"This is a pretty positive step," Stokes said. "We've got a lot of support for the sewer."

Ron Pommier said that the projected sewer cost, based on 155 users, was $26 per month. Because the tornado destroyed 50 homes, there would be fewer uses, at least initially.

"Assuming a 25 percent reduction in population, the sewer cost could go up to around $30 per month," Pommier said. "But that's an imaginary number, a ballpark estimate."

Stokes also reported on efforts to fund construction of a new community center.

"It's not official, but I've heard that we were turned down on a Small Business Administration loan for this," he said. "If I get notification of that, the next step would be to go to FEMA. They would replace the center at the same size it was, with another portion of the grant for a storm shelter. I understand that we could apply any money we get with this to enlarge the center or put a full basement under it."

The idea of incorporation of the small community "is probably a dead issue until we get these other things settled," Stokes added.

Work is being done to put up a community bulletin board in the parking lot of the old community center. Stokes said he hoped this could be done over the weekend, so that updated information could be posted for Franklin residents.

"We just need to be sure that we take advantage of all the good opportunities we can and keep moving with our projects," Stokes said. "We're trying to work on our projects and succeed. That's not to say that our community and Arma can't work a little closer."

The next community meeting will be June 8, starting with a Rural Water District meeting at 7 p.m.  Back to Top  

Cleanup proceeding at rapid pace
May 28, 2003
Morning Sun Staff Writer
Cleanup efforts in Franklin and other parts of the county are more than half done, due in large part to the efforts of the National Guard and volunteers.

"I was just in Franklin, and the waste manager for the county, Bob Krumsick, said he thinks we have about 60 percent of Franklin and Ringo cleaned up," Crawford County Sheriff Sandy Horton said Tuesday afternoon.

Horton said he was pleased with the progress of the volunteers, the National Guard, the state and highway departments and the county.

At 4:22 p.m. on May 4, the National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for Crawford County. Officials in Labette County notified the Crawford County sheriff's department of a funnel cloud in their county heading towards Crawford County.

Crawford County sheriff's deputies reported a tornado on the ground five miles north and four miles west of McCune. The tornado traveled in a northeast direction for 26 miles until it exited Crawford County.

In the storm's wake, 19 people were taken to area hospitals and three Crawford County residents were dead. Nearly 100 homes were destroyed, several livestock killed, crops destroyed, a radio tower fell, power lines were down and at least 19 railroad cars derailed near Mulberry.

Emergency Preparedness Coordinator for the county, Eldon Bedene said the National Guard has been moving 200 to 250 loads of debris per day.

"The guard is doing really good. It's unbelievable," Bedene said. "We have requested the guard for another two weeks, but I don't know if we will have them that long. Right now, we have them for sure this week, but hopefully next week too."

Bedene said that once the guard gets down to a certain number of loads per day, the state will step in and tell the guard to pull out.

"Right now, we're just going day by day," he said.

Bedene said at this point most of the cleanup efforts have been concentrated on Franklin, Ringo and Mulberry, but not in the more rural areas of the county because of the size of the equipment the guard uses.

"It is difficult for them to move throughout the county," he said. "We are trying to let the guard do everything they can in Franklin, close by where they can easily move stuff around. Of course, the more roads we get on the more roads we tear up."

In addition to the National Guard, Bedene said that there have been many church groups volunteering to help with the clean up efforts. He said that the Ministers Alliance is coming Thursday to help clean up the county.

"We have asked them to do farmers fields," Bedene said. "They just walk through them and pick stuff up."

However, Horton said that even once the guard and the volunteers leave, there is still going to be a lot of things to clean up.

"There are buildings that are damaged that are on private property that owners and insurance companies will have to deal with at some point," Horton said. "There are trees that are still standing that at some point in the next few years will be issues. They aren't going to re-grow. I think we will be dealing with this devastation and the removal of debris for a long time. Officially, we will be scaling down here shortly. After the guard leaves it will be up to the county commissioners then as far as what individual efforts are being done by their crews."   Back to top

County continues discussing Franklin annexation
May 28, 2003

Morning Sun Staff Writer
GIRARD - In a follow-up to Sunday's community meeting in Franklin, Bill LaSota met with Crawford County Commissioners Tuesday to determine the next step in a proposed annexation to Arma.

The community of Franklin had proposed incorporating, following the devastating tornadoes of May 4, in an effort to bring the town back to life. However, a community must have at least 300 residents to incorporate, while Franklin, before the tornadoes, had about 200. Many people are rebuilding, but there is as yet no way of knowing how many residents will return to the battered community.

LaSota asked commissioners what the next step would be in the proposed annexation. County Counselor Jim Emerson told him he would have to submit a petition of Franklin residents to the commission to get proceedings under way.

Arma's city council already has agreed to annex the smaller town, just a mile south of the city limits. Arma Mayor Rock Anderson spoke at the community meeting Sunday, and Tuesday afternoon, reiterated his comments.

"Arma is willing to help out," he said. Anderson pointed out there would be a lot of advantages for Franklin, including water and sewer service, improved response time for police and fire services, street repairs and city amenities like parks and pools.

"They enjoy a lot of that now, of course," Anderson said, adding, "The whole infrastructure is what they'll be looking at."

He said Arma police and fire departments are "right there," and can respond to emergencies closer than the county entities.

In addition, he said, the two cities are enjoying a closer sense of community all the time, already mingling at local events in both towns. "We'd just be one big community," he said.

At Sunday's meeting, Anderson also cautioned, "We want you to know that Arma has no intention of coming down and gobbling up Franklin. Our intent is to lend a helping hand."

LaSota said he didn't think Franklin would grow without annexation; however, the idea does not have unanimous support within the community.

Anderson said he intends to attend the next Franklin community meeting June 8 at 7 p.m.

The county commission also heard Tuesday from Janis Goedeke, county public health officer.

Goedeke presented a contract between the county Health and Family Services Department and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment for HIV services. She said such services have been provided by the county for about 15 years now, and include training and outreach. No money is required for the contract.

"We also do a lot of outreach for this," she said, citing about 250 people served so far. Clients must meet risk and income guidelines to use the services.

The commission approved the contract as recommended.

Commissioners meet twice a week, Tuesday and Friday at 10 a.m., in the county courthouse in Girard. The meetings are open to the public.

Staff Writer Olive Sullivan can be reached at, or by calling 231-2600, Ext. 134.   Back to top

Residents want specifics on annexation
June 9, 2003

Morning Sun Family Living Editor
FRANKLIN - There were many questions - but few answers - Sunday night as an overflow crowd of Franklin residents met to hear discussion about the pros and cons of being annexed by the city of Arma.

"Now I live in the country, but then I would be living in a city, and I want to know if I can still burn my trash at 8 p.m. at night?" asked Linda Rohner.

Another resident asked about what breeds of dogs are not allowed inside the Arma city limits.

"I didn't bring the complete city ordinances - that's too massive an amount of information to bring," Arma Mayor Rock Anderson said. He referred those questions to the Arma city clerk's office.

Other questions dealt with the costs of water, electricity, sewer service, and other items.

Anderson said that Arma currently has a flat sewer rate of $15 per user per month, which could go up to $18. Comparing water costs, 10,000 gallons of water cost $31.60 in Arma, and $47.50 from Crawford County Rural Water District No. 7, which serves Franklin. Gas service costs the same for both communities.

Taxes were another matter, and Craig Stokes, water district chairman, pointed out that these taxes would go up for Franklin residents if they become part of a city. Currently, he said, Franklin residents are assessed at the county rate of around 90.3 mills per $1,000 assessed value of the property, but Arma residents pay 107.90 mills.

Stokes also had some questions of his own for Anderson, including whether the entire Arma City Council agreed with the idea of annexing Franklin.

"We're in agreement to talk about it," Anderson answered.

Stokes also questioned whether the city could afford to annex Franklin. "Annexation could be very expensive, and I don't know how the city can do it and still keep the sewer rate at $15 and not raise taxes," he said.

"Arma has a good base," Anderson said.

Stokes pointed out that annexation would require Arma to buy out Rural Water District No. 7 and pay for the water lines in the ground, put in improved streets and street lights, maintain the streets, and possibly assume the debt associated with Franklin's pending sewer project.

"Are the people of Arma prepared to pay for our sewer?" he asked.

Franklin has received around $2 million in grants for the sewer project, and this would probably transfer if the community was annexed.

However, FEMA money to rebuild the community center would not transfer, according to Shelly Phillips Corey, who is chairing the committee in charge of the center.

"We've met with FEMA representatives, and FEMA will pay up to 75 percent of the cost of rebuilding the Franklin Community Center," she said. "But if we're annexed, we will not get this money because there won't be a Franklin any more. We'd be part of Arma, and Arma already has a community center."

Anderson repeated what he had said at an earlier community meeting - that Arma "will not come in and gobble you up if you don't want it. We want to do what's best for the people of both communities."

He said that, if a majority of Franklin residents favored annexation, Arma's city engineer could come into the community and do a study of how the transition could be managed.

"We can't make a decision without information, but he's saying that they can't do a feasibility study without a decision," said Marge Snyder.

Stokes asked Anderson for additional information on how Franklin residents would be affected by such a change and what procedures would be necessary.

"I want to hear both sides," Rohner said. "Could we put out a flyer and vote? I don't want somebody else deciding what I do with my property."

Stokes said that information could be mailed out with water district statements, and another public meeting set to discuss the issue further.

Some Franklin residents have already decided, according to Bill LaSota, who said that a considerable number favor annexation.

"And a considerable number do not," Corey replied.

"The timing of this bothers me," Snyder said. "We haven't had a chance to heal from the tornado, and now this is tearing us apart again."

Stokes said that he personally believes it would make more sense for Franklin to get its sewer system and a new community center and then consider the issue of annexation.

"I really think that would be a much more cost effective way to go about it for both Franklin and Arma," he said. "Arma has been a big help to us, and I want what's best for both communities, too."    Back to Top

A temporary place to call home
June 11, 2003
Tornado victim moves in to FEMA-supplied domicile

Morning Sun Staff Writer
Nancy Kinsworthy, a victim of last month's deadly tornado, has a temporary new home, thanks to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Kinsworthy took delivery of the mobile home last week and representatives from FEMA were on hand Tuesday to give her the keys.

"I was amazed it was happening this quick," Kinsworthy said.

Kinsworthy said she filled out the applications for aid the second or third day after the tornado hit and was denied twice.

"I just kept working," she said. "A lot of people give up with FEMA, but you have to stay after them. You get turned down, then you go to SBA (Small Business Administration) and they turn you down and then it goes back into FEMA."

Kinsworthy lives directly two miles east as the tornado went from Franklin in rural Mulberry and she wasn't the only one who lost everything in the twister.

On May 4, Crawford County sheriff's deputies reported a tornado on the ground north and west of McCune. The tornado traveled in a northeast direction for 26 miles until it exited Crawford County.

In the storm's wake, 19 people were taken to area hospitals and three Crawford County residents were killed. Nearly 100 homes were destroyed, several livestock killed, crops destroyed and at least 19 railroad cars derailed near Mulberry.

Kinsworthy said a tree fell on her trailer home and it just blew apart.

"My neighbor said I left about six minutes before it hit," Kinsworthy said. She said she out ran the tornado by heading east then south.

"It's been a long drawn out ordeal. It's been depressing and hard. But I am so thankful for all this," she said.

Kinsworthy received a brand new, all electric, fully furnished mobile home from FEMA, one of more than 100 coming to the area.

According to Emory Strong, a site inspector for FEMA, there is a staging area in Neosho, Mo., where more than 100 mobile homes and travel trailers are awaiting delivery.

"Over in Liberal, Kan., they have just identified a number of homes that need to be replaced, so they are ordering more," Strong said. "Right now in the staging area in Neosho Mo., they have over 100 so that number may change. That includes both travel trailers and mobile homes."

Strong said some people will get the mobile home and some will get the travel trailer, it depends on their plan to secure permanent housing.

"What defines the difference is how long we think the people are going to be out of their home," he said. "In other words, if a housing plan is going to take more than six months then we put them in a mobile home, regardless of the family composition. Which is Nancy's case. If it is going to be less than six months, then we put them in a travel trailer. But it depends on the circumstances. Obviously, if the family is too big for a travel trailer then we put them in a mobile home. It depends on the needs of the applicant."

According to Strong, no one gets temporary housing from FEMA without a plan for permanent housing.

"Everybody has to have a housing plan that is part of the deal," he said. "They have to tell us what they are going to do to get into permanent housing. Somebody with FEMA will check with them every month. How long can they stay in here? As long as they need it. As long as they can prove to us that they need it, that they are actually working on a plan. There are some limits set. For a travel trailer it is six months, for a mobile home, it is 18 months."

According to Strong, after their use, FEMA will get rid of the homes and the trailers, but he wasn't sure what would happen to them.

"We don't know exactly what happens," Strong said. "They may be offered to another government entity. That would include the local fire department, sheriff department, that kind of thing. If there is no need there, FEMA may gather them together and auction them off. They may actually move from here to another disaster, if there is an ongoing disaster, but FEMA doesn't store them. FEMA will get rid of them one way or another."

Kinsworthy said she isn't entirely sure what she is going to do yet, it sort of depends on her insurance company and how much federal aid money she can get.

"FEMA is supposed to help with some money but my insurance company is the hold up," Kinsworthy said. "I had a mobile home up here and I don't really know if I want to go that route again. But it doesn't matter if it is a mobile home or a house, it will get you."

Strong said FEMA is still accepting applications for assistance.

"It's not a handout," he said. "You pay for it with your tax dollars. If anyone needs help they should contact us."

Anyone who suffered losses or damages from the recent tornado can register fro disaster assistance by calling FEMA at 1-800-621-3362.
Back to Top
Opposed to Franklin annexation
June 22, 2003

Letter to the Editor:
Dear Editor,

There are some important considerations that have not been addressed or presented to the residents of Arma and Franklin. I would like to present some issues that seem important to both communities on annexation.

There are many issues and questions that need addressed before an offer of this magnitude is made by the City of Arma to the community of Franklin. The issue of cost incurred to the City of Arma is unknown. This cost would be of an amount that may not be feasible or realistic for Arma to incur. Cost would include, but not limited to, the purchase of the Rural Water District #7 to be determined by negotiations between the two entities. The amount, at this time, is unknown, but the Water District just received a grant for improvements amounting to about $398,000 at a debt service of $48,500, which does not include all lines and infrastructure currently in the ground and future lost revenue.

Sewer District #3 is in the process of obtaining a grant for the purpose of system installation. This system will go in, annexation or not. This will incur a service debit at about $400,000. Are Arma residents willing to pay for this?

There also is the issue of electricity. Franklin will receive an increase in electrical rates if annexation is approved. Will Arma incur the cost of purchasing the rights from Franklin's current supplier? What will it cost Arma to obtain rights so it can receive revenue from Franklin residents? Can Arma's budget cover the cost of maintenance to maintain all roads, extension of utilities, street lights, fire hydrant replacement, snow removal and maintenance of all utility infrastructures.

Can this be done without a tax increase to both communities involved? Is the tax base that Arma will gain large enough to cover these cost? Does Arma have enough employees and resources to cover an increased physical and monetary debt of this magnitude?

The issue that concerns me is that no one, or very few, have enough information that can support any kind of a decision at this time. Why would a city want to annex an area that is in the process of rebuilding. It would seem to me that it would be much more cost effective to have the major projects completed before you would attempt annexation of this magnitude. I don't see the residents of Arma willing to pay for Franklin's sewer, but maybe they are!

I don't see them paying for our water district debt or the purchase of the system. What I do see is Franklin paying for their own sewer. I don't think Arma can charge Franklin residents $15 a month for sewer without Arma residents paying for some of it as well!

In my opinion, the issue of annexation is not feasible or realistic for either communities at this time. Everyone needs to stop and determine the short term and long term costs and effects of a proposal of this magnitude. It's not a cost effective or a financially sound investment. Annexation does not support the best solution for either community at this time.

Franklin has been growing each year in size on its own. The percentage of growth and pace of growth have exceeded most communities in relationship to size of the community. Franklin, as a community, has made tremendous progress in the improvement of the water district infrastructure and is well on the road to the installation of a sewer system. That will only increase the growth and independence of Franklin.

Without a doubt, Franklin will expand and grow in size. Most of the growth is to the south of the community. We, as the community of Franklin, need to focus on our current projects to their completion. There is no doubt that the residents have the ability and the initiative to do so. Past performance proves that. We have been solid and united for many years and should stay so. We, as residents of Franklin, and the Arma City Council, need to do what is best for the residents of both communities. Annexation is not the answer at this time.

As I have stated, there are many questions unanswered. I have not heard whether the entire Arma City Council supports the issue of annexation, nor if the residents of Arma support annexation. Budgets are tight right now and the only thing that adds to them are some type of revenue increase, not debt incurred. Electric revenues are not enough so that only leaves one thing - tax increases across the board which will affect all involved!

We, in Franklin, appreciate all that Arma has done to help us during the tornado devastation. We appreciate the helping hand and are willing to work with Arma, but annexation is not the best answer at this time. The spirit of Franklin remains strong and willing to keep growing.

Robert Craig Stokes, Franklin                 Back to top

PHS student raises funds for relief effor
June 22, 2003
Pittsburg High School senior Catherine Guo presented the Crawford County Tornado Relief Fund with nearly $200 she collected from students and staff at the high school.

Guo, who had been part of a student work group that helped with tornado clean-up in Franklin, said the experience really inspired her. "I felt that day when we went to Franklin and saw the damage and stuff that it would be a really long time before everything would be cleared up," she explained.

She knew that many students hadn't been able to attend the work day May 17, and she felt they needed to have a chance to help as well.

"I took several sessions of seminar and I went around to each of the different classrooms and I collected money from PHS students and staff," she said. "I got anything from $10 at once to two cents."

The money, a total of $190.46, went to the tornado relief fund. But Guo didn't stop there.

"I also collected food donations, household and personal stuff," she said. Those goods went to the Salvation Army for distribution to tornado victims as well.

Guo said community service just comes naturally to her. She has been involved in community service since middle school. "I just love it," she said. "In high school, not a lot of us do much for the community, when we have so much to be thankful for, we don't even realize. We have to give something back to the next generation. It's just human nature."

Guo, the daughter of Andrew Guo and Joanne Wang of Pittsburg, is also a member of Key Club, National Honor Society, and Spanish Club. She is on the Honor Roll and works for the Crawford County Health Department as a peer educator with Straight Talk. Guo plans to attend college after graduating from PHS, majoring in pre-med and eventually becoming a doctor.  Back to Top

Future of Franklin Post Office topic of Sunday meeting
June 27, 2003

A meeting will be held Sunday night to discuss the future of the U.S. Post Office in Franklin.

Franklin's post office was destroyed during the tornado on May 4 and postal service officials hope to discuss the future of the community's post office.

The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Sunday at Henry Ashbachers' shop, which is located behind Ashbachers' home at 108 S. Broadway in Franklin.

Since the tornado, postal service to Franklin has been provided through the Arma Post Office through rural delivery and post office boxes.

However, to ensure the postal service continues to provide the best service to the Franklin community, officials are asking that residents attend the meeting and voice their concerns on the issue. Representatives from the postal service, as well as from Sen. Sam Brownback and Rep. Jim Ryan's office, will be at the meeting and postal service representatives will provide a presentation.   Back to Top

Combo may be post office's best shot
June 30, 2003
Morning Sun Staff Writer
FRANKLIN - The best option for Franklin to rebuild its post office may be to combine it with the community center rebuilding project, according to regional postal services manager Keith Coleman.

Coleman spoke Sunday evening at a Franklin community meeting. The meeting was attended by about 50 residents, post office officials, local political leaders including County Commissioner Tom Moody, state Sen. Jim Barone, and representatives from the offices of U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback and Rep. Jim Ryun.

Coleman told the assembly that a new post office would cost about $150,000 and take at least two years to complete, if that was the recommendation after the study process was completed. He said the community meeting was in response to a petition submitted by concerned Franklin residents, and a way to dispel rumors about the demise of the Franklin office.

"Technically speaking, the post office is still open. The building is just gone," Coleman said, explaining that service was not disrupted since residents had postal delivery by the next day through the Arma post office. "Nobody has lost service," he said. "They may have some inconvenience."

He said Franklin would still have its community identity and its own zip code even if mail service came from surrounding communities.

But community members spoke out passionately about their desire to reopen a post office in Franklin, not just for convenience - although a post office within walking distance and extended hours were both frequently praised features - but for community pride.

"It's really a focal point for the small communities," explained Melvin Patrick, a former postmaster himself and longtime Franklin resident. "It would really be an asset to keep our post office."

Barone said he felt it would be "foolish" to take away a vital service since the community is struggling to rebuild itself after the May 4 tornado which destroyed much of the town, including the community center and post office. The flag still flies in front of the former post office each day, as a statement of community pride.

While Coleman said the process to build a facility could take years, community members insisted that wasn't an option.

"I would expect the community could come up with a place to put a post office, I expect by daylight if the post office wanted it," Barone said, to applause.

Coleman pointed out that a new building would have to meet current government specifications, including adequate parking and handicapped access. The project would also have to be put out for bid.

"This community is going to rebuild," said Henry Ashbacher. "We're going to make this community thrive. You can mark my words."

"You're here tonight, and this isn't a post office," pointed out Connie Mori, manager of consumer affairs from the Postal Service office in Kansas City. "The community is you all."

Trying to overcome Coleman's insistence that a new post office would be a long-term goal, Cecil Lovelady said, "If we build it, will you come?"

That's when community members came up with the suggestion of incorporating the post office into the new community center. The center, funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the USDA Rural Development Agency, will have to meet similar government specifications as a new post office, and could be rented to the postal service in the same way the former building was.

Shelley Phillips-Corley, president of the Franklin Community Civic Center board, said there is plenty of room available on the new building site to integrate a post office. "It's something we discussed right after the storm. We've got the funding and we're ready to go," she said. "Quit tabling this and studying this and just move forward. Wherever you're standing in our way, just step aside and let us get on our way. We're asking for you to help strengthen us and rebuild."

Ashbacher said the joint venture with the community center seemed the most logical and feasible option.

Janice Rake, postmaster in Ottawa and one of the postal service representatives, said, "That would be more economical from our point of view."

"We do that all the time," Coleman added.

Rake told the assembly that their passion for their post office is commendable. "Everybody wants their post office," but she said Franklin residents have backed up their desire with a real plan and funding. "You're willing to do that," she pointed out.

"I think it's wonderful," Mori said.

Coleman didn't offer a timeline for a final decision on the status of the post office, but did say he will immediately research installing a collection box in Franklin. He also said he would send specifications for a free-standing building or for one that would be part of the community center to Ashbacher, who will present the information at a future community meeting.    Back to top

Crawford County Commission Meeting
July 2, 2003
Commissioner Tom Moody reported on a Franklin meeting with representatives of the U.S. Postal Service, which he attended June 29. He said residents are pushing hard to get their post office, destroyed in the May 4 tornadoes, up and running again.

"It was the hub of that small community," he said.

The postal service representatives really didn't give the community an answer, Moody said, and he asked the commission to send a letter of support for Franklin to the regional post office manager who led the meeting Sunday night.

The commission directed Emerson to draft the letter.   Back to Top

Emergency landfill available - for a fee
July 9, 2003

Morning Sun Staff Writer
GIRARD - Crawford County on Monday finished its free collection of debris from the May 5 tornados because funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency has ended. However, the emergency solid waste landfill in Franklin will remain open under the operation of Fred VanBecelaere as long as it is needed.

Crawford County Commissioners discussed the end of the county's affiliation with the landfill at their regular meeting Tuesday. The landfill will still be open for tornado-related debris, but now those using it will have to pay a tipping fee. FEMA had been funding the free use of the temporary landfill, but that money ran out as of Monday, according to County Counselor Jim Emerson.  Back to Top

Grant to help Franklin build new community center
August 20, 2003

Morning Sun Staff Writer
Franklin will be receiving a $50,000 grant from the United States Department of Agriculture's Rural Development Office for the construction of a new community center.

The new building will replace the previous facility that was destroyed in the May 4 tornado and will serve a population of about 275 in the unincorporated community.

John Houck is the treasurer and secretary of the Community Center Committee and he said the group applied for the grant shortly after the tornado came through Franklin.

"We kind of knew it was coming but there is a lot of detail work involved in actually getting the funding," Houck said. "We've got $231,000 in funding besides this $50,000 that we are getting through FEMA and through local involvement, including insurance. That grant hasn't been completed as yet, but this is additional. The money from this grant is for the furnishing and finishing of the building. The $231,000 will involve the purchase of the land and the construction of the actual building."

Houck said state Sen. Jim Barone, D-Frontenac has been instrumental in helping secure funding, but he said it would probably take most of the $280,000 to build the 4,500 square foot facility.

"We hope it to be the best facility in the area," Houck said. "We plan on putting all oak crown molding, chair-railing, all oak doors, all Mexican floor tile inside, hardwood flooring on the dance floor and stage. We hope to make it the Class A facility in this area."

Houck said that the facility would be used for wedding receptions, funerals, bingo and other events.

"Besides the grand ballroom, we're having a smaller conference room which we hope will be used by the water district, the Boy Scouts, 4-H and various clubs of that nature."

Fees for usage will be used for building upkeep and paying bills.

Robert Craig Stokes, chairman of Crawford County Rural Water District No. 7, which covers Franklin said the Community Center Committee has been working hard to get the center rebuilt.

"I think that is great, we've been working really hard for it," Stokes said. "The community has been working real hard on that issue and we've had a lot of support. "They've done a great job.

Stokes said that there have been several committees formed since the tornado. They are designed to work on different issues to get Franklin rebuilt.
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