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Midwest Recovering from Sunday's Tornadoes

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MICHELE NORRIS:

And I'm Michele Norris. A spate of tornadoes and violent storms killed at least 10 people and injured more than 40 others across the Midwest over the weekend. Forecasters say that on Sunday the number of tornadoes broke a 16-year record for any day in March. Officials said it's remarkable that more people weren't killed. Frank Morris, of member station KCUR in Kansas City reports.

FRANK MORRIS reporting:

Approaching rural Renick, Missouri, everything looks fine. Bright green row crops are just coming through the rolling fields. But within half a mile of where an F3 tornado, with winds of up to 170 miles per hour, churned through killing four people last night, wadded up sheet metal litters the fields. Home insulation sticks like moss to splintered tree branches. Gene Barnes is picking through the wreckage of where his 84-year-old mother-in-law, Margaret Everhart, used to live. Barnes says his son called Everhart last night to warn her about the storm.

Mr. GENE BARNES: While he was talking to her on the phone, why, the phone went dead.

(Soundbite of chain saw)

MORRIS: 63 miles south, two half-mile wide twisters careened through the Sedalia area. 81-year-old Dorothy Jennings watches as her grandsons remove big limbs and pieces of metal that landed in her front yard. She's lived all her life on this farm, her mother was born here. And as far as she knows, a tornado has never hi this 1840s farmstead until last Thursday. The second arrived yesterday.

Ms. DOROTHY JENNINGS: First day it took this shed, it was open on the south, took it all off. The rest of the barn was okay. It's all gone this time.

MORRIS: The barn her father built 90 years ago, and three other buildings, are splintered and strewn across her rolling pasture. Jennings says she watched the storm from her rocking chair.

Ms. JENNINGS: Yeah, I did, I said there it goes.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. JENNINGS: It didn't take long, it was gone. So I came out to see the damage.

MORRIS: Amazingly, she and her husband Orville survived without a scratch, and their small house remains intact. She considers herself lucky. Not far away a woman was crushed to death in the storm as she tried to flee her mobile home. And across the road from the Jennings farm destruction is everywhere.

Scraps of sheet metal hang of one of the buildings that once housed Sherry Vincent and her husband's construction material supply business. Their 12-year- old house is standing, but barely. A greenhouse in back is completely destroyed. The lawn is littered with Christmas decorations and household items.

Ms. SHERRY VINCENT: This is our, this is our business and everything. I mean, it's gone. You just wander around and you don't know what to do.

MORRIS: The bad weather yesterday started early. Storms packing 70 mile an hour winds barreled into Lawrence, Kansas just before eight AM, toppling large trees, shattering windows, and sending slate roof tiles flying through the air like huge arrowheads. Most of the buildings on the University of Kansas campus were damaged. Downtown, two spires atop 135-year-old church crashed onto the church steps an hour before services were set to begin. Pastor Peter Lucky says the storm damaged a local landmark.

Pastor PETER LUCKY: This is a historic structure in this community, and these four spires have sort of been our signature trademark, if you will. And to see two of them gone, it's quite shocking.

MORRIS: By the end of the weekend more than 110 tornadoes had been reported in Missouri and surrounding states. Yesterday alone, the National Weather Service for Western Missouri recorded almost 200 reports of high winds, hail, and tornadoes. That's 200 in just one day. They normally log about 350 for the entire year. And the severe weather season has just begun. For NPR News, I'm Frank Morris in Kansas City. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Frank Morris