Massive cleanup begins one day after tornado hits homes in Baxter Springs, Kan.

BAXTER SPRINGS, Kan. -- Help came from residents just one day after a tornado damaged at least 100 homes in Baxter Springs, Kan. 

 

Power crews from Empire District Electric dispersed throughout the community to string new wires and install new poles. In addition to those crews, the hardest hit neighborhoods saw a massive amount of support from the community just as the cleanup began. 

 

Glen McCoy started picking up pieces of his home early Monday morning. He missed the tornado hitting his home on Sunday evening because he had gone to a church function in Riverton, Kan. leaving his 14-year-old daughter, Caitlynn, in charge. 

 

"Such a small town, you wouldn't think it would happen to you, but I guess it can happen at anytime," said Caitlynn, while standing on her damaged front porch. 

 

Her mom and dad call her the "weather girl." Caitlynn earned that nickname ever since she decided to keep a watchful eye on the weather after witnessing the tornado in Picher, Okla. in 2008. 

 

"Anytime we're going to have storms, she keeps a close lookout because part of it's fear from going through that experience" Glen said.

 

Caitlynn said she sat on the swing on the front porch all day Sunday watching the skies. She went inside when the tornado sirens sounded only once, then went outside again and saw the tornado drop from the sky. 

 

"It was probably the scariest thing I've ever had to experience in my life," she said. 

 

Caitlynn got everyone in the basement just in time before debris started hitting the house. The tornado ripped shingles off the McCoys' roof, blew out windows and even jostled the home's foundation. 

 

Once daylight struck Monday, the McCoy family did not have to wait long before help started to arrive to clean up everything.

 

"We knew if anything ever happened that there would always be community support," Glen said. 

 

Some of his church members, family friends and even a few strangers stopped by the house to do what they could. 

 

"We've picked up sticks and an A-frame from somebody's house that landed in the yard," said Patty McGarry, a close family friend. "A lot of shingles (too), just different odds and ends from somebody's house or their house. We don't know exactly whose house."

 

The McCoys say the damage to their home is significant but not nearly as bad as their neighbor, Linda McCumber. The longtime Baxter Springs resident said the tornado hit with little warning. She said she spotted it across the street from her home before running to take cover with her grandchildren.

 

"[The tornado] messed the roof up. It cracked a lot of the ceilings, took all of the glass out," McCumber explained. "After it broke the windows, it just threw everything everywhere, so what's not broken is damaged."

 

Many of her neighbors are unable to return home right now due to the excessive damage, but McCumber said she's not going anywhere after fending off a few looters shortly after the storm hit. 

 

"They're already out looting and going into the houses," she said. "They're going to come in and take what little bit you do have left. It's ridiculous."

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