After an evening of rescuing tornado victims, officials in Wessington Springs have started the task of recovering from extensive damage.
A tornado ripped through the small central South Dakota community Wednesday. The storm didn’t cause any serious injuries to people in its path.
Daylight Thursday showed residents of Wessington Springs the scope of damage. There are twice as many unlivable homes than expected. Still, the recovery has started.
"As things pop up, we're addressing them in good shape and we've got the resources here," Dedrich Koch said.
Engineers are inspecting damaged homes to determine whether they're safe to enter. Crews are trying to restore power to as many people as possible and medical officials are set up to deal with injuries clean-up efforts could bring.
As the city works to move forward, it's hard to forget Wednesday night.
"I walked out of my house and it was unimaginable. The house right next to me was gone. Right across the street I don't know how it's still standing up," mayor Melissa Mebius said.
As the tornado was turning homes into rubble, Mebius, her husband and her four, six and seven-year-old children were in the basement beneath the stairs.
"Right before it came, we kind of covered the kids up with blankets. I jumped on top of them, laid on top of them. My husband laid on top. We had a crib mattress he threw on top of all of us," Mebius said.
Then they prayed loudly, Mebius says, before all coming out alive to see their town ripped apart in places. City leaders acknowledge recovery could be long but they don't doubt it will happen. After spending the day in Wessington Springs, the Governor is confident too.
"I want to say how proud I am to be governor of a state with a community like we have in Wessington Springs," Daugaard said.
The city is still on lockdown and officials are even asking volunteers to stay away for now. The mayor says they may be in a position to let volunteers in this weekend.