Pregnant Harveyville Mom Tells Harrowing Tale Of Survival

By: Giang Nguyen Email
By: Giang Nguyen Email
United Methodist Church destroyed in EF-2 Tornado

United Methodist Church destroyed in EF-2 Tornado

HARVEYVILLE, Kan. (WIBW) - Wednesday morning, people in Harveyville combed through what was left of their town, devastated in Tuesday night's EF-2 tornado.

12 people were treated for storm-related injuries, and one man, volunteer firefighter Richard Slade, remains in critical condition at Stormont-Vail Regional Healthcare.

It was just after 9 P.M. that night, when Gemma Collins sat in her one bedroom apartment with her one-year-old and two-year-old daughters, watching "American Idol."

'My daughter said "Mama look!'" Collins said. She looked out of the window and reacted immediately.

"I threw both my kids inside the bath tub and as soon as I lay on top of them, the whole wall came crumbling up," she said.

A piece of a trailer nearby wrapped around her bath tub, she said, "[It] hit all of us in the head and knocked my two babies out," Collins, who is 10 weeks pregnant, said. "I thought that they were dead. I was sitting there singing lullabies to them and I didn't know if they were alive or not," she said.

Collins and her kids clung to the bathtub in what seemed like an eternity, but were in reality just a few minutes.

One of her daughters was bleeding, Collins' back hurt from the rocks that had piled on her. All three were treated for minor injuries.

Collins remembers she had been thinking about taking cover in this car - that vehicle was flipped over in the storm. Her split-second decision saved their lives.

The Harveyville Apartments complex, with about eight units, was destroyed.

40 percent of the entire town was damaged in last night's tornado, officials said.

But as soon as the sun came up, residents put their fears and shock aside and started the clean up process.

"Today is really a day of recovery, we're checking how to remove debris and get the town functioning again," Mark Engholm, a spokesman for the Kansas Incident Management Team, said.

Residents and well over 100 emergency responders from across Northeastern Kansas were removing debris and working to restore basic services throughout Wednesday.

"Clean up is going to take quite a while, there is a lot of debris and it needs to be sorted and thrown out a certain way," Engholm said. "It will definitely be weeks, if not months," he said.

Westar says 180 customers were without power. 30 poles were down. The company said electricity should be back on by tomorrow.

State Farm insurance agents were already seen assessing the damage. One agent said he was surveying 24 policies and was providing home owners with emergency cash.

For Collins, the task of rebuilding will be difficult. She said she doesn't have any renter's insurance.

"I'm gonna get all I can out of here before it goes to the garbage," she said, as she collected what she could in a shopping cart. "I'm gonna go find a place to stay... hopefully in Burlingame," she said as she contemplated her next steps.

For now, workers were doing their best to help the people of Harveyville stay in town.


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