Small EF-0 tornado touches down in Miami County, causing heavy damage for many

PAOLA, Kan. -- A small, brief tornado touched down early Monday morning in rural Miami County, the National Weather Service confirmed.

Meteorologists said it reached speeds of 85 mph, making it an EF-0. It touched down at 4:10 a.m. about 6 miles east of Osawatomie and lifted three minutes later after traveling 2 miles in rural Miami County.

The tornado was small in size, just 15 yards wide, but it still did some heavy damage in the area.

It wreaked havoc on the area of Paola near Block Road, knocking down telephone lines, damaged structures and upsetting a cherished local church and cemetery.

"Something came through here pretty powerful last night about four o'clock," Rebecca Stutzman said Monday.

It would take a lot of wind to lift a 2,000 pound cemetery headstone.

But church leaders at Trinity Lutheran Church in Paola said that's what took place Monday morning at their church building and adjacent cemetery, where the loved ones of many locals have been interred since just after the Civil War.

Strong winds tore through one side of the church. Shane Stout, who owns Four County Monuments, said some of these old granite markers weigh as much as 2,000 pounds apiece.

Gravestones lie flat on their back in Miami County, Kan. on April 29 after a severe storm rolled through the night before.

"I'd hate to guess what the wind was here that knocked these over," Stout said. "If you were to come through here and do the job, you'd figure $200-300 per monument if you were to come in here and completely reset them and take them out and put a new foundation underneath them."

Some church members said they believe the winds may have been strong enough to pick up the tombstones and drop them. Another local homeowner told FOX4 one of his calves had been thrown across a pasture, having been flung into the breeze by the strong winds.

"My mother is there. My father is there. My grandpa's stone is knocked over there," Stutzman said, referring to the tempest-tossed cemetery.

Stutzman, who attends and plays music at the church, said 75% of the people buried in that cemetery are her loved ones. Many of those headstones have been in place since the 1800's. Some are written in German, dating back to the early members of the Paola-based Lutheran church.

"I live about a mile away. I didn't wake up through the night. I didn't hear anything. I've heard there was a siren that went off," Stutzman said.

Trinity Lutheran Church sits about 5 yards from the cemetery.

Pastor Kevin Vogts, said the church was recently remodeled, and now, it's in need of repairs again. Vogts said the church will conduct Sunday services as scheduled since the church's sanctuary is intact. However, a large area on the church's south side is virtually destroyed.

Trinity Lutheran Church in Paola, Kan. stands severely damaged on April 29 after a storm rolled through the night before.

"We built a new north wing, and last night, the Lord took the south wing," Vogts smiled. "Buildings can be replaced. We're thankful no one was hurt."

Interestingly, the wing of the church that suffered the most damage also has this photo of Jesus Christ. Church members say its a miracle of sorts that the room around it was ruined, but the photo remained intact until a church member took it down while cleaning on Monday.

Just across the street from the church, Mike Schmidt's front yard was a noisy place, but he couldn't hear the commotion. The tornado was pelting the backside of his home with debris, likely hunks of wood from these uprooted trees.

When Schmidt and his family came outside, they realized the tornado had battered the trailer he uses to store auto racing equipment. The fierce winds caused that trailer to roll end over end like an empty soda can.

"We awoke to the sound of heavy winds. Stuff was impaling the back of the house," Schmidt said. "My wife came to the door and said the trailer was missing. I said no, and I came to the door and it was gone."

The Schmidts found that trailer several yards away from where it usually sits. The trailer is full, and Mike Schmidt believes it weighs as much as four tons.

The Miami County Sheriff's Department confirmed no one was seriously injured in Monday morning's tornado.

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