- The Washington Times - Monday, March 13, 2006

RENICK, Mo. (AP) — Homeowners across the Midwest were aghast yesterday after a barrage of tornadoes, hail and rain left 10 persons dead and destroyed or damaged hundreds of homes.

“It’s just amazing how devastating it is,” said Mayor Tim Davlin of the Illinois capital of Springfield, which nevertheless escaped with no deaths or serious injuries. “It looks like the pictures we saw a couple months ago after Katrina.”

Thousands of homes and businesses lost electricity over the weekend. The University of Kansas in Lawrence and numerous public schools closed yesterday because of storm damage and power outages, and many Illinois state workers in the capital were told to stay home.

Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt declared a state of emergency and authorized the National Guard to help with the cleanup. Nine of the dead were in Missouri.

Missouri resident Bobby Ritcheson said he watched as a neighbor, DeAnn Francis Solloman, 39, was killed. “The trailer came down right on top of her,” Mr. Ritcheson said.

The National Weather Service said there were as many as 110 reported instances of tornadoes touching down over the weekend in Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Illinois. But the weather service said it could take two weeks to confirm those accounts.

In Sedalia, Mo., Jerry Collins, 60, was in his workshop — also a mobile home — and heard the roar of the approaching tornado. He grabbed two of his dogs and yelled for his girlfriend. They jumped into his Jeep and headed up a hill, going 80 mph to try to outrun the storm.

“You could see stuff going up in the air, twirling — metal, a bunch of long pieces of white stuff going in circles,” Mr. Collins said. “And then, just as quickly as it started, it stopped.”

Hundreds of homes and businesses were destroyed or damaged in Missouri alone by the tornadoes, high wind and hail as big as softballs. There were no immediate damage estimates across the Midwest.

Four of Missouri’s nine deaths were in Renick. Twenty-six persons were injured in surrounding Randolph County, 13 of them when a chartered bus overturned while returning to Columbia College.

West of Missouri, classes at the University of Kansas were canceled yesterday because of the danger of pieces falling off of buildings. Provost David Shulenberger said 60 percent of the campus buildings were damaged, and University Chancellor Robert Hemenway put the damage at $6 million to $7 million.

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