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Last Updated: Monday, 5 May, 2003, 16:31 GMT 17:31 UK
Tornadoes 'bent pylons like toothpicks'
Tony Spudic on the porch of what is left of the home in Kansas City
Americans in the Midwest count cost of storm damage

The deadly tornadoes that swept across America's Midwest have claimed the lives of at least 20 people and caused extensive damage to property.

As residents of Missouri, Tennessee and Kansas begin counting the true extent of the cost, eyewitnesses have been telling BBC News Online of their experiences.

D Fokum of Parkville, Missouri, described power pylons "bent like toothpicks" while Dwight Widaman said "trees, shingles, insulation, paper - covered the freeway like snow".

Keith and April Lewis, of Missouri, asked for people's prayers after a tornado claimed the life of their children's grandfather and injured more of their family.

This selection of e-mails illustrate the ferocity of the storms:

We were right in the path of the tornado. The tornado was over in about five minutes, but I heard a second tornado siren after the first one went through. First we had some table tennis ball-sized hail, and then the wind, then it was over. The brunt of the storm struck the southern end of Parkville, near Riverside. This morning I saw a propane dealership completely destroyed, as well as some power pylons that were bent like toothpicks.

D Fokum, Parkville, Missouri

It took bulldozers and men with chainsaws to even clear a path for the medical emergency personnel to get in
Keith and April Lewis

My son lives in Kansas... Being from California, he said it was very surrealistic driving down the road and a funnel cloud suddenly drops down out of a black sky. It is an awesome sight he said, but reeks of hell. Because they are more frequent than earthquakes, tornadoes create much more terror for a longer time.

Perry, USA

My husband, my children and I were caught in the tornado that went through here last night. It was so severe that it took the life of my children' grandfather when a tree fell on him... The trailer that he and his fiancÚ and her daughter lived in was picked up by the tornado and thrown about 300 yards back into a ravine behind.

It took bulldozers and many men with chainsaws to even clear a path for the medical emergency personnel to get in to get to them. They survived but are badly hurt. Also other family members of ours lost their homes or they were terribly damaged. We are still very numb right now, and just trying to pick up the pieces. Please keep our family in your thoughts and prayers and we begin healing again.

Keith and April Lewis, Camdenton, south central Missouri

We were driving east from the middle of Kansas all afternoon. You could see the storm clouds in the distance about 120 miles west of Kansas City. I pointed them out to my wife and said "that is going to be a big storm." Two hours later when we arrived on the outskirts of the city, debris littered the highway. Trees, shingles, insulation, paper - covered the freeway like snow. Most schools in the northern half of the city are closed including William Jewell... the campus is a wreck and several dormitories are destroyed.

Dwight Widaman, Kansas City

There is a very good warning system... an audible siren sounds in every neighbourhood and every TV station has a message on the screen
Kieran Pemberton

My grandparents live in Franklin, a small town in southeast Kansas, and they have lost their entire community. She had been trimming bushes when the skies grew dark and the wind began to blow so she moved inside...

The 110-year-old house creaked and moaned. A window cracked in the bedroom. It rained heavily. [When the storm had passed] she poked her head outside and noticed several portions of the exterior of her roof missing, the power lines were knocked down and a large tree in the front had split in two.

The tornado passed only two blocks south of their home... it has levelled their surrounding community. She said many people are walking around trying to understand what happened. Some are missing. One woman was found in a tree near her home, alive, thank God.

Scott Grigsby, Kansas City

My family and I moved to Kansas City from London two-and-a-half years ago and this was our first experience of a tornado actually touching down in our area... At its strongest, the weather people on a local TV station said it was a mile wide.

The houses over here are mostly all built of wood, apart from the basements, which are concrete. There is a very good warning system that is triggered as soon as conditions become favourable for a tornado. A very audible siren sounds in every neighbourhood that lies in the path and every TV station has a message appear on the screen warning of the approaching storm.

We knew it was coming yesterday about an hour before it struck. People are told to go to their basements, away from any windows, and cover their heads until the all clear is sounded. When we first moved here we were told that Kansas City was expecting a tornado sometime soon. I just hope that's the last one we see for the foreseeable future.

Kieran Pemberton, Ireland

Tornadoes wreak havoc in Mid-West
05 May 03  |  Americas
In pictures: Mid-West tornadoes
05 May 03  |  Photo Gallery
Tornadoes: Small but terrifying
11 Nov 02  |  Science/Nature


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