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Greensburg focuses on rebuilding

Story Highlights

• Governor says resources are strained because of war
• Death toll rises to 11
• Ammonia leak prompts police to evacuate half of town
• More severe weather possible across the central Plains
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GREENSBURG, Kansas (CNN) -- Federal officials arrived Monday in ravaged Greensburg to survey the damage caused by the weekend's tornado-packed storms.

Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius expressed concern that rescue and recovery efforts were being strained because much of the needed equipment has been sent to Iraq.

"When the troops get deployed, the equipment goes with them. So here in Kansas about 50 percent of our trucks are gone. We need trucks. We are missing Humvees, we're missing all kinds of equipment that could help us respond in this kind of emergency," she said.

The weekend's storms killed 11 people in Kansas -- including nine deaths in Greensburg, one in Stafford County to the northeast and one in a separate storm in Ottawa, Kansas.

Previously, officials said 10 people died in Greensburg, but authorities said they had apparently counted someone twice, according to City Administrator Steve Hewitt.

Hewitt also said a man reported to be a survivor found in the rubble had actually returned to the town to retrieve some papers and was not rescued.

Storm destroys resources needed for recovery

Search and rescue efforts were continuing after Friday's mile-wide twister with winds of 205 mph leveled most of the town.

Sebelius said city and county trucks were destroyed in the storm.

"National Guard are our first responders. They don't have the equipment they need to come in, and it'll just make it that much slower," she said. (Watch the governor talk about the lack of equipment Video)

The National Guard has said for years that it is short of equipment at home because of deployments to Iraq.

"We weren't fully equipped with all the resources we need before the war started," said Maj. Gen. Tod Bunting of the Kansas National Guard, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan "further depleted us."

Lt. Col. Eric Peck of the Kansas National Guard said in addition to being short transportation equipment, they also are short of front-end loaders and other heavy vehicles that can move debris.

He said the Guard troops are providing security, generators and water. They're also moving debris, but not as fast as they could if they had a full complement of equipment.

White House spokesman Tony Snow said Monday the National Guard has stockpiles of equipment stashed around country for emergencies. "The administration is doing whatever it can. If there's a need for equipment, it will arrive."

Feds pledge to help

U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kansas, said the area was "a total disaster."

"It is a difficult thing to see and I'm sure a much more difficult thing to live through," he said. (Watch as town tries to cope after tornado Video)

Brownback, Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator David Paulison and congressmen from the area joined Sebelius and local officials in Greensburg to pledge as much federal assistance as needed.

Paulison said FEMA has trailers ready to come into the area for temporary housing as soon as locations are found to put them.

"It's horrendous," Paulison said of the devastation, "some of the worst I've ever seen. It's pretty much total destruction."

FEMA, he said, will "assist the state and assist the local community to get this community back on its feet."

Bunting said in some ways the damage is worse than Hurricane Katrina, because the entire city is in ruins.

"There's no place to go to stage to rebuild," said Bunting, a nearly 30-year veteran of the Guard. "We'll have to create that."

Gov.: Kansans are resilient

Despite the stretched resources, Sebelius was confident Greensburg would rebuild. (Watch treetops sheared off amid a flying American flag Video)

"Kansans are resilient," she said, echoing a depiction of Midwesterners offered by other state and federal officials in the wake of the devastation.

"We have an opportunity to rebuild an entire rural community," Sebelius said, adding that the "eyes of America are on us."

The city should have a plan to get water and power restored within 24 hours, making trailer hook-ups feasible, according to Sebelius, a Democrat.

Hewitt said he will focus on re-establishing the town's government.

"I've got employees that have lost their homes. I've lost my home. We're going to bring people back. We got to get reorganized, we got to build our government back up, we've got to be a leader, we've got to help folks get together and begin that process." (Watch Hewitt tour devastation that includes his own home Video)

Residents were allowed to return to the town of 1,500 to inspect their property until 6 p.m. Monday, but visiting privileges were suspended for about half of the town after an ammonia leak from a railroad tank car prompted authorities to evacuate the area as a precaution.

Authorities said the tanker containing about 14,000 gallons of ammonia had overturned in the storm, and the leak began when workers tried to right it.

Severe weather lingers

Forecasters predicted that more severe weather was possible Monday elsewhere across the central Plains. (Watch more dangerous flooding likely in Oklahoma City Video)

In addition to the devastation in Greensburg, parts of Oklahoma were reeling from twisters that hit Saturday night. One person died from that storm in the northern town of Ottawa, Kansas.

The Oklahoma town of Sweetwater, about 225 miles south of Greensburg, was hit hard by a twister that severely damaged a high school and other buildings Saturday. (Watch a 360-degree look at the devastation that twisters left behind in Greensburg Video)

Larry Ruthi, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Dodge City, Kansas, told CNN on Sunday that the tornado that struck Greensburg on Friday night was an EF-5, the highest level in a classification system used by the National Weather Service, and had estimated winds of 205 mph (330 kph).

The damage path at its widest point was about 1.7 miles (2.7 kilometers), and it tracked for 22 miles (35 kilometers). (Watch an aerial view of the devastation Video)

The tornado moved at an average speed of about 20 mph (32 kph) and took about 15 to 20 minutes to wipe out the town, he said.


People looking for friends or family members from Greensburg should call the American Red Cross in Pratt, Kansas, at 620-672-3651, according to Greensburg City Administrator Steve Hewitt.




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