After a quiet spring in the Midwest, 68 tornadoes were reported May 20-22, including one in Reading, Kan., resulting in one death and widespread destruction of the small Lyon County town.


After a quiet spring in the Midwest, 68 tornadoes were reported May 20-22, including one in Reading, Kan., resulting in one death and widespread destruction of the small Lyon County town.

By far the most devastation occurred from an EF-4 storm that hit Joplin, Mo., just after 5:30 p.m. on Sunday. At least 116 people died, making it one of the deadliest single twisters in history. Nearly a third of the city of 50,000 has been destroyed.

St. John’s Regional Medical Center, in the southern part of the city, took a direct hit.

Otto Buche, Pratt, learned Monday morning that his brother was one of dozens of critical care patients evacuated to hospitals within a 150-mile radius. His nephew, seeing reports of damage and deaths at the hospital on television but unable get through by phone or in person, spent the night calling first one hospital and then the next. Being in the medical profession, he made the assumption that evacuation had occurred, Buche said. He finally located his father about 4 a.m. Monday, at Cox Hospital in Springfield, Mo.

Recovering from surgery, Buche’s brother had been expected to remain in the Joplin hospital for a week or more. Buche does not know what plans will be made now, but said, “he’s one of the lucky ones.”

Five patients and a visitor at St. John’s died.

Jean and Cheryl Kutz returned from Joplin Sunday evening, after a visit to watch their grandson and nephew graduate from high school. Cheryl turned on the TV first, and said to her mother, “Mom, don’t panic.”

When they were able to reach Randy Kutz, he reported no damage to his property, about a mile south of the hospital, but said, “it’s Greensburg all over again.”

Other relatives in the area were not so fortunate. Jean Kutz said her cousin, Judy (Brown) Mitts, formerly of Medicine Lodge, lost her home, as did a granddaughter’s husband’s family.