Tim Unruh

The Salina Journal MINNEAPOLIS -- Two men stopped and stared at a mass of mangled machinery Wednesday morning when they were jolted by more bad news.

"It's worse over the hill," warned a man who had ventured closer to a grisly scene beyond the pens at the feedyard at Bollier Farm. Dotting the lush pasture in a valley between 140th and 150th roads were cattle that, no doubt, had succumbed to a big, stubborn tornado Tuesday night. "We've just got to deal with it. It's bad," said Ron Bollier. He and brother Rick manage the ranching and feeding operation about 6 miles southeast of Minneapolis. Volunteers combed the pasture on four-wheelers looking for surviving animals. A steady stream of vehicles moved slowly north from Kansas Highway 18. Some were large trucks hauling fresh timber to replace 100 or more power poles snapped by the storm, said Bernie Schauf, of Wichita, a construction manager for Westar Energy, as he directed operations near the Bolliers' feedyard. Power poles downed Up to 1,700 Westar customers were without power after the Tuesday night storm, and 1,000 were still without juice at 5 p.m. Wednesday, said Tom Sydow, Westar's regional director. "With another round of storms coming through, it's going to be 50-50 whether we get all of them back on tonight," he said. Some of the county road traffic may have been gawkers, but the majority were showing up to offer help. "Thank God for these people," Ron Bollier said. His parents, Joann and Clifford Bollier, drove out from Minneapolis to see the aftermath of the tornado that struck twice in places. Most said the tornado roared in and remained almost stationary between 6 and 7 p.m., ravaging one home and outbuildings and dumping 7 inches or more of rain on much of Ottawa County. Runoff caused the Ottawa State Fishing Lake to spill briefly, said Scott Thomason, public lands manager for the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, but there was no damage at the lake north of Bennington. The Bolliers measured 3 1/2 inches at their gauge in Minneapolis. "We came to see how bad it was," Joann said. "They said (the tornado) was a massive thing." Equipment damaged Inside the storage sheds were two combines, one tractor, three trucks, a baler and an air seeder. Two combine headers in a separate shed were buried in "all that mess with the feed truck," she said. A second tractor was outside. Most everything was caked with foliage and mud. Steel hopper-bottomed feed bins that had been anchored in concrete were on their sides, still attached to the rock-hard slabs. Steel siding from the buildings was twisted like baler wire around the rails of steel corral fencing. Cattle killed The Bolliers lost 36 head of cattle, but combined with other ranchers, the estimate rose to more than 100 head lost, according to Kansas Emergency Management. The Bolliers were relieved that one of their three combines was in Beloit for repairs. "We farm too much ground to harvest with one combine," Joann said. The cattle feeding operation was built on land homesteaded by Joann's grandfather, James N. Ewart, in the early 20th century "This was the only ground my dad (Frank Ewart) had," Joann said. "The boys have put money and time into it." Some of the machinery can be repaired, Clifford said. The operation was insured, Joann said, "but you never have what you need." But at least nobody was hurt, Clifford said. "We didn't have to replace any skin," he said. "That's the main thing." A few miles to the southwest of the Bolliers, Earl and Marsha Goossen were hard at work, with 20 or more family and friends, cleaning up after the tornado that struck twice at the farmstead along Kansas Highway 18, about 5 miles west of U.S. Highway 81. High winds did some damage when the tornado passed at 6:15, Earl said, but then it came back at 6:45 for a major whammy. "We were in the basement. It sounded like a freight train, just like everyone says," the farmer-rancher said. Three outbuildings were leveled and the roofs of two barns were taken. There was mild roof and siding damage to their home, but it's intact. "I think the shelter belts are the reason the house is still there," Earl said. "The good Lord took care of us." The farmstead is insured, he said, "but a lot of investment and effort have gone to waste." Friends aid cleanup As a "good bunch of friends," many from the Beverly Community Church and the Christian Motorcycle Association, worked to remove debris, Earl looked at the operation from an old shop. Sheets of corrugated steel roofing that were still attached flapped in the breeze. "The grandkids are sorting tools in the shed," he said. Metal will be sorted out and sold. Wood will be stacked in a nearby field and burned this winter, Earl said. As noon approached, he hadn't yet been out to look at his crops or the critters. "We had four heifers in a pasture and I think I've seen two of them," Earl said. Home under construction gone Less than a mile to the northeast of the Goossens, Mitch Copple stared at a pile of lumber that had been his home under construction. Only a portion of the east wall remained. "That was going to be the mud room," said Copple, 31. He and his father, Gary Copple, began building about a month ago. The walls were up and the trusses attached. "If it hadn't gotten nasty (Tuesday) night, we were going to start sheeting the roof," he said. "We were hoping to be in it by the end of the year." Instead, he got a call Tuesday night from an emergency worker, reporting to Mitch and JoDee Copple that their new home had been hit. "It really did a number on it," said Mitch, who works at Great Plains Manufacturing in Salina. "We're going to build it back," he said. The couple had been mulling a tornado shelter in the basement. "It's for sure now," Mitch Copple said. Fearing a possible backlog from demand for building products following the storm, he called Miltonvale Lumber to get their names on a list to have new trusses built. Off in the distance, Mitch's mother, Ruth Copple, and a friend, Donna Stirn, both of Minneapolis, combed through the remains of a camper that had been parked at the construction site. It was obliterated. "This is our camper," Ruth said, pointing to debris that littered a fence line bordering a lush pasture along Kansas Highway 106. He found a couple of family snapshots and some ChapStick. "We're just trying to pick up the mess now," Ruth said. "We have a pile of stuff down by the propane tanks, but it's just stuff. Everybody's OK. That's all I care about." Never gets to Bennington Dick and Barb Belden, who live in Ottawa County, were counting their blessings Wednesday. They had been tracking the Tuesday evening storm on their television and radio and listening to reports that a tornado was on the ground and taking direct aim at Bennington. "Our house is five miles east of town," Dick Belden said. "We were square in line with Bennington, but it stalled southwest of town." Besides the media, the Beldens received a heads-up from family and friends and they have safe quarters in which to ride out vicious storms. "We have a place in the basement where we can go, but I was standing outside like a dummy getting rained on, watching," Belden said. He is a former weather watcher and is used to staring bad weather in the face. Fortunately, for the Beldens in particular and Bennington residents in general, the tornado spared the small town. Belden recorded about an inch and a quarter of rain, some wind and small hail. More storms coming The National Weather Service was gearing the public for another round of severe weather -- damaging winds, large hail and more tornadoes -- Wednesday night and today, said Chad Omitt, meteorologist at the NWS office in Topeka. "You've got to be ready for everything again," he said. The Tuesday night tornado won't receive a rating for a day or two, Omitt said. Ruth Copple said she was ready for more storms Wednesday. "Bring it on," she said. "What else can they screw up?" -- Reporter Gordon Fiedler Jr. contributed to this report. -- Reporter Tim Unruh can be reached at 822-1419 or by email at tunruh@salina.com.