WICHITA, Kan. — All missionaries have been reported safe, and as of May 8, no Church members had been reported killed or injured in an onslaught of 137 tornadoes in Kansas and Oklahoma that destroyed or damaged more than 95 percent of businesses and residences in Greensburg, Kan., Friday, May 4.
President Gary M. Craig of the Wichita Kansas Stake reported to Church headquarters that seven Church members live in Greensburg, which is part of the Pratt Branch. As of May 8, local Church leaders had been able to contact several of the members but not all. No member names appeared on the list of dead or injured, but two homes of Church members were destroyed with another damaged but salvageable.
The other community in the stricken region that received damage was Sweetwater in western Oklahoma, part of the Oklahoma City Oklahoma Stake. No Church members live in Sweetwater, and no Church buildings are located in either of the affected communities.
"We, in our stake, knew that something like this was going to be coming because of our weather situation around here," President Craig said, "so we called on the members to try and get at least 100 people certified in the Community Emergency Response Team program. We have almost 100 now, and so they were called up, and 26 responded on Saturday and several on Sunday."
On Sunday, May 6, despite a threat of additional severe weather, two of those members certified in the emergency response program were asked to stay longer and help in search efforts. With the help of dogs, emergency personnel had identified nine additional sites where bodies might be buried. As a result of the combined efforts, workers on May 7 found an additional survivor under some wreckage as well as two more bodies.
"It looks, from first indications, like there might be more; we aren't sure at this point," President Craig said. "And in the picture in the newspaper, I counted easily 60 square blocks that were completely leveled. We have indication it's going to take four months or more to clean up this disaster. But we're working on it with the Red Cross and trying to determine what they need from us and standing by to help in any way that we can." — R. Scott Lloyd