The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on June 2, 1998 · Page 10
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 10

Salina, Kansas
Issue Date:
Tuesday, June 2, 1998
Page 10
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AID TUESDAY, JUNE 2, 1998 NEWS THE SALINA JOURNAL The Associated Press Sen. Tim Johnson (right) comforts Kris Roelfs In Spencer, S.D. Roelfs is the daughter of Ron Selken, a 62-year-old man killed in the tornado that ravaged this town. Selken was the youngest of the six who died. Tornado / Future unsure for devastated, tiny town FROM PAGE A1 Although almost everything in Lucille Mone's house came crashing down around her, sitting serenely on the wall is a framed puzzle of a cool, green Irish countryside and a clock that is still telling time. Mone, a sprightly 89-year-old woman who springs around on a wooden cane, was hoping Monday to salvage one more thing: her husband James' false teeth. "They were in a cup in the bathroom, and he was in bed and the storm blew him out of bed so bad, he couldn't find the floor and that's when he got hurt," said Lucille Mone, whose husband, 95, was in the hospital with a broken shoulder and broken ribs. "They were Omaha teeth. You can't get them in South Dakota." Safe, but for the dog The 100-mph twister carved a southeastern slash across South Dakota's corn-wheat-and-soybean territory Saturday night, but it hit hardest in Spencer, virtually destroying this mile-square community. It struck so hard and so fast that it fizzled the town's electricity before the tornado warning siren could sound. Six people were killed and 150 others, half the population, were injured. The dead were all older people, for they are the people who remain in the pin-dot places of the Great Plains, the places the Interstate ignores and the cities carry on without. The youngest was Ron Selken, a 62-year-old retired concrete laborer. Two of the women died in a home for the elderly on Main Street, the only paved road in town. A 93-year-old widow, Mildred Pugh, was crushed under the library's bookmobile trailer. And Gloria Satterlee, 71, was yanked to her death as she and her husband were hurrying from the kitchen into the basement. "I had her by the hand," her husband, Ward, 74, said Monday, watching as relatives combed through the rubble of his house and came up with an old Bible. "She said, 'Just a minute, I want to get the dog.' I let go of her hand and that's the last I seen of her. "I was pinned with some kitchen floor on top of me. I called to her about 10 or 20 times and never got an answer." Satterlee's face was a torment of purple abrasions — he was released from the hospital Monday morning after being treated for the cuts on his face, a gash in his side and a burn from the hail that pounded him while the tornado kept him trapped. On Monday, President Clinton named Spencer a federal disaster area and offered the community the full range of disaster-relief services, from temporary housing to rebuilding roads to small business loans. Officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency said there was no way to estimate how much damage was done. "Look around," said Richard Weiland, the regional director of the emergency agency. "What can you count? It's all gone." CARROL HAMILTON) Roofing Company Since 1962 Free Estimates, All Work Guaranteed f.800-864-4637 • 785-452-9224 Unsure about the future Standing on a cement slab that marked the remains of a shattered house, Gov. Bill Janklow insisted Monday that the town would be rebuilt. "You should have seen it when the pioneers got here," the governor said. "We built a town here. We'll build another town. Will everybody live here? No. But a year from today we're going to have a town." To drive the point home further, Janklow said: "Look, how'd you like to be in Berlin after the war? But Spencer's going to have what Spencer had before." But residents are not so sure. "Well, there's nothing to come back to — just my grave in the cemetery," said Lucille Mones, who was born in Spencer. "I suppose this will wipe it out," said Cal Muters, 53, Muters' son, as he searched for family photographs in his mother's house, which was so devastated she could not yet bring herself to see it. Even the mayor of Spencer, Rocky Kirby, who also owns the grain elevator, was skeptical about rebuilding. "These little towns out here in South Dakota are on their way out," he said. Slowly fading away In truth, what Spencer had has been diminishing over the years. Built about 120 years ago in the grassland about 50 miles west of Sioux Falls, Spencer has seen its population dwindle by half over the past few decades as young people grew up and moved away. The year before last, the school was closed because there were not enough children for classes. "There used to be 22 businesses downtown," said Everett McDaniel, who was born here 68 years ago. "Now there's just the bank, the post office, the grain elevator, Spencer Automotive and the antique store." At least that was what there was before Saturday. Now, the silos at Spencer Grain Co. are crushed like soda cans. The 120-foot blue water tower is twisted into ruins, sharp spiky strips of metal, with the name Spencer visible through the wreckage upside down. All five churches in town were flattened. The library, fire department and post office are tortured piles of brick and wood. And all that remains of the Security State Bank branch is the steel vault, sticking up like a pyramid in a desert. Residents said that the twister was so furious that a blank check from the bank was found in Laverne, Minn., 100 miles away. "It's kind of hard to tell where one house ends and another begins," said Jane Kingsbury, who was searching a pile of rubble . that, as near as she could tell, contained all that was left of her daughter's house that used to stand across the street. On Monday, the electric company began what will be a two- week process of hooking up the town's electricity. Emergency Management crews uprooted the shredded remains of trees and bulldozed away walls and ceilings and doors. Since Sunday, about 80 members of the National Guard have been deployed to secure the area and prevent looting. And each family was assigned a cadre of prison inmates to help them sift through their belongings. The governor deployed 100 inmates from the Springfield State Penitentiary here because, he said, "I think it's beneficial to have inmates see human suffering." As the gray rain gave way to a simmering sun late Monday, Mabel Allen, 86, who has lived here since she was in third grade, was sitting on a folding chair outside what had been her home, the senior citizen apartments. Her daughter and grandson brought her fragments of her life that they found blocks away. "It seemed like it lasted forever," Allen said, recalling how she cowered under a staircase when the winds hit. "I don't know how long it was. We prayed and screamed is what we did. 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