Douglas County family in disbelief after losing home from tornado

LAWRENCE, Kan. -- A large tornado left  behind a path of destruction just outside Lawrence. Almost every home in a neighborhood in the Shank Hill area, about a half mile west of 59 Highway, has major damage.

When the weather started to get serious, the Stofer family crammed into a tiny closet, pulling the doors shut tight and clenching on for dear life. After the storm, they walked out of the closet and into the main part of their home only to find everything gone.

“Just utter disbelief.  It’s so overwhelming,” Eric Stofer said.

Stofer and his family were watching the weather closely.

“It really didn’t look that ominous before it hit, then all the sudden it just hit,” he said.

A tornado dropped right on top of them.

“I was telling my son I’ve lived in Kansas 43 years.  I’ve never seen a tornado and the chances of getting hit by a tornado are really slim. So I just told him, I don’t think we’re going to get hit by a tornado. Boy was I wrong,” Stofer said.

Eric, his wife and 9-year-old, along with their two dogs heard the winds kicking up and took shelter.

“I was holding the doors shut and sounded like a freight train running through and water’s coming in,” he said.

Somehow, kitchen cabinets were undisturbed. Magnets and photos still stuck on the fridge.  But outside, trees are left split down the middle. The roof peeled away. The exterior walls of his home just outside Lawrence are ripped off.

“That’s my son’s room up there and if this would’ve happened at dark or night, I don’t think any of us would’ve survived,” he said.

While this family and so many others in this community know they have a lot of clean up left to do, they are lucky to be alive.

Just down the street, Stofer’s neighbor Mike Hart, said in a matter of seconds, a still sky turned violent.

“All the sudden it’s about a mile away and you could see it really see it building over that hillside there,” Hart said.

Mike, his wife and son, ran under a staircase.

“We just kind of hunkered down and rode it out,” Hart said.

He says the winds began roaring.

“Kerbam! Bam! And I think that was the brick falling into our house. Maybe lasted 20 or 30 seconds,” Hart said.

Then driving rains began pouring into the daylight above, visible with the roof ripped off.

“We just got a direct hit it looks like unfortunately,” Hart said.

His family's home and many of his neighbor's properties, almost two dozen of them, are now in shambles.

“You live in Kansas all your life and know bad storms come through once or twice a year but never think it’s going to hit your house and destroy it like it did basically,” he said.

But this tight knit community is quickly checking up on each other, and they are all glad no one was hurt. Support is already pouring in.

“Just don’t want to go through it again, that’s for sure. We’re all safe. That’s the main thing.  Can always rebuild,” Hart said.

In addition to the homes, three beautiful classic cars were left badly damaged and messy from all the storms. And as much work as it’s going to be to put all this back together, neighbors are rallying, coming to each other’s aide to clean up from these storms.

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