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Kansas Tornado Survivors Return To Ruin

Rescue crews have twice searched the debris-strewn yards and splintered homes that once held Greensburg's 1,500 residents. They began a third sweep Monday to secure the area before families who lost almost everything were to be allowed back in.

Not much remained in Greensburg to go back to.

The F5 tornado, the most powerful to hit the U.S. in eight years, demolished every business on the main street. Churches lost their steeples, trees were stripped of their branches, and neighborhoods were left unrecognizable. Officials estimate as much as 95 percent of the town was destroyed. At least 10 people died in the storms.

Walking through mounds of rubble, CBS News correspondent Hari Sreenivasan reported Monday morning that almost every commercial business was wiped out.

"We've been over the town twice now — all of our partners around the state, the experts from cities with technical search-and-rescue," Maj. Gen. Todd Bunting, the state's adjutant general, told CNN Monday morning. "We've done everything we can.

"Some of this rubble is 20, 30 feet deep. That's where we've spent all our efforts, and we'll do it again today."

The search may be furthered hampered by severe thunderstorms expected to pound the southern and central Plains, dumping another two to four inches of rain as well as producing hail and high winds, with the possibility of more tornadoes, CBS News meteorologist George Cullen reported.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius was in Greensburg on Monday, and Federal Emergency Management Agency director R. David Paulison planned to tour the devastation for the first time since the tornado hit Friday night.

President Bush declared parts of Kansas a disaster area, freeing up federal money to aid the recovery.

"There's a certain spirit in the Midwest of our country, a pioneer spirit that still exists, and I'm confident this community will be rebuilt," the president said.

The storm system that swept south-central Kansas also spawned tornadoes in Illinois, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Nebraska, and the heavy rain created flooding dangers across the region Monday.

In western Oklahoma, at least eight homes were destroyed, several more were damaged and one person was injured. A woman was briefly trapped when her mobile home was blown off its foundation in Seminole, said sheriff's dispatcher Terry Thomason.

In Greensburg, only the residents were being allowed back into town on Monday, and they had to leave by 6 p.m. Law enforcement officials planned to check identification and compile a list of people whose whereabouts were still unknown.

Mark Anderson, from nearby Pratt, told Sreenivasan, "I can only imagine the devastation for them."

Since the tornado hit, emergency responders have had little indication of how many people may be safe with friends or relatives elsewhere.


Bunting said he believed everyone had been found, but fresh search dogs were still being brought in from Missouri to continue the hunt for possible survivors and victims amid the debris.

Paramedic Annette Gasten and her German shepherd, Greta, spent a grim weekend searching the wreckage.

"Even though I have been to other disasters, this one was a lot worse — the amount of damage," Gasten said. "It is such a large area that was destroyed that it made it difficult."

The tornado's wind was estimated to have reached 205 mph as it carved a track 1.7 miles wide and 22 miles long.

The National Weather Service classified it an F-5, the highest category and the first since the weather service revised its scale this year in an effort to more comprehensively gauge tornadoes' damage potential, with less emphasis on wind speed. The last tornado classified as an F-5 hit the Oklahoma City area on May 3, 1999, killing 36 people.

The 10 deaths over the weekend brought the total number of tornado-related deaths this year in the United States to 68, Sreenivasan reported.

In Kansas, the governor said the state's response was limited by the shifting of emergency equipment, such as tents, trucks and semitrailers, to the war in Iraq.

"Not having the National Guard equipment, which used to be positioned in various parts of the state, to bring in immediately is really going to handicap this effort to rebuild," she said.

Sharon Watson, a spokeswoman for the adjutant general's office, which manages state resources during emergencies, said the state has a shortage of heavy equipment transport trailers, pallet-sized loading systems, Humvees, dump trucks and other large equipment that would be help move massive amount of debris.

"We are never at 100 percent because we are allocated a certain amount from the National Guard Bureau. With the war, we are much shorter than we would be. We have about 40 percent of what is allocated," Watson said.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency was bringing in travel trailers to house some of the town's residents.

There was no indication when people would be able to move into those trailers, though, because the area was choked with debris and the town had no clean water. School superintendent Darin Headrick said classes will be canceled for the rest of the academic year in Greensburg, and graduation would be held elsewhere.

City Administrator Steve Hewitt said his job Monday would be to get city government working again. He said he needed to find employees, get purchase orders out, pay employees and bills — in short, create commerce again in Greensburg.

"Get government going — that is our No. 1 priority," Hewitt said.