Residents of Baxter Springs, Kan., ‘fortunate lives weren’t lost’ in tornado

Many residents of this town of 4,200 in the extreme southeastern corner of Kansas considered themselves lucky Monday, even with dozens of their homes and a swath of the business district damaged.

In the wake of an EF2 twister that likely spun out of Oklahoma on Sunday, Cherokee County Sheriff David Groves said that “to look at all the homes and businesses that sustained damage, we’re really fortunate lives weren’t lost.”

The storm left behind hanging power lines and mounds of debris. Its damage ranged from minor to total destruction of 100 homes and 12 businesses. It yanked off the roof of a senior living apartment complex where Jerry Thompson resided.

But Thompson escaped serious injury after “I saw that sucker coming and I shut the door.” Part of a wall in his apartment landed on top of him before he made it to his bathroom shelter. Thompson, 69, walked away with a scraped arm.

Authorities said 25 people were injured in Baxter Springs; nine were hospitalized. None of their injuries was life-threatening.

One death reported earlier was clarified Monday as being caused from a medical condition and not attributed to the storm.

Groves said early warnings and preparation paid off.

“We’re right next door to Joplin,” the Missouri city leveled by an EF5 tornado in May 2011, the sheriff noted. “That tragedy served as a reminder that our area needs to be prepared come springtime.”

Baxter Springs resident Sue McBride, 71, woke up Monday morning in an emergency shelter a night after she ran from her porch into a home where glass and other debris were flying.

“I am alive. Thank God,” she said. “I didn’t have one scratch on me, and I was fine.”

After raking Baxter Springs, the tornado, about two blocks wide, moved into the Joplin area. It vanished around the Kansas-Missouri state line.

Lt. Steve Dorsey of the Jasper County, Mo., sheriff’s office, said several funnel clouds cited in and around Joplin produced no damage.

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