Debris litters a 12-mile-long stretch of Haysville, Kan. Homes, businesses and churches are in shambles. Amid the clutter stands the remains of Norland Plastics Co.
About half of the plant was spared as a tornado roared through the area about 8:30 p.m. May 3, company President Charles Landwehr said from his cellular phone May 4 as he surveyed the damage.
``We're trying to look at the structural damage and see if we can't keep half the building and get it fixed,'' he said.
The 80 employees working at the plant were unharmed. Local police patrolled the streets in the minutes before the tornado warning residents to seek shelter.
``We have a storm shelter downstairs and everybody made it down there just in time,'' Landwehr said.
Some 30,000-square-feet of Norland Plastics' office space was leveled by the tornado, while the remaining 70,000-square-foot plant sustained significant damage. In all, Landwehr estimates a $1.8 million loss on the building.
``About 20,000-30,000 square feet of it doesn't look so bad, but I don't know about the structural damage,'' Landwehr said.
He was uncertain about the amount of damage to his 51 injection molding machines, and he did not know whether they could be salvaged.
Clean up has begun, but Landwehr said he does not know when the plant will be back in operation. In the meantime, Landwehr plans to ask nearby injection molders for help in fulfilling Norland's orders.
The National Weather Service estimated the damage was caused by an F4 tornado — containing winds between 207 and 260 mph — on the Fujita scale, which lists F5 as the strongest. It was spawned by a deadly storm that swept through Kansas and Oklahoma the evening of May 3, ruining almost everything in its 3-mile-wide path.
Norland has been within two miles of a tornado's path in the past. Landwehr said he remembers helping other firms put the pieces back together. This time, Norland, the only plastics plant in the area and the town's largest industry, was one of 27 area businesses consumed by the tornado.
Norland reported $14 million in 1998 sales. Its primary end markets are automotive, computers and business machines, building and construction, consumer products and lawn and garden.