Strangers come to family’s aid following EF-1 tornado that crossed state line

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PAOLA, Kan. – A Paola man dug his wife and three daughters out of debris after Friday night’s tornado buried his family under what was their home. The EF-1 storm touched down first in Miami County, Kan., then moved into Cass County, Mo. The National Weather Service says the tornado path covered about nine miles and was about as wide as a football field.

Phil Lopez didn’t know the family of five who lost their double-wide mobile home just north of Waverly road near Paola following that storm. Lopez owns a tree-trimming business and came to help the family after he heard about the damage through Facebook.

“I can't imagine what these people are going through,” Lopez said.

Ashley Deremus said of the stranger, “He just came up and asked them what they needed. He said he's there for their use no matter what they need, to let him know. They have no idea who he is.”

Deremus said her sister, brother-in-law, and three nieces were all inside the trailer when the tornado struck.

“You can see the house. It's completely demolished. There's nothing left of anything,” she said.

She said her brother-in-law used his bare hands to move the debris that trapped his family.

"They were buried underneath a wall,” she said.

Neighbors started to help Friday night and picked back up just hours later, in the day after sunlight.

“When I got home with my dad the storm had already passed so we just came down here to see if everybody was okay,” 11-year-old Parker McDonald said.

He continued with an encouraging smile, “They lost a lot and so it's good to be over here and help.”

Lopez said it’s about giving back and hopes his efforts will offer some kind of comfort in the wake of the storm.

“I would just hope that one day if something like this happened to me, there would be people to help,” he said.

The National Weather Service reports one person suffered minor injuries.