Tornadoes Strike Quivira Wildlife Refuge

Written By Michael Pearce The Wichita Eagle
Published  April 18, 2012, at 7:49 p.m. Updated  April 19, 2012, at 3:27 p.m.


Tiffany Vincent came to Kansas to burn prairie grass. But much of this week shes been taking a chain saw to huge trees.

Sometimes tornadoes happen, said Vincent, an Iowa Conservation Corps member working at the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge.

Her six-person crew spent much of Saturday night in a cramped, above-ground shelter as two tornadoes cut paths up to a half-mile wide through the refuge.

It kind of puts the wild into (a) wildlife refuge, deputy refuge manager Steve Karel said of dealing with storm damage.

Its thought to be the first significant tornado damage in the refuges 50-plus-year history.

Karel and David Farmer, a wildlife refuge specialist, said many roads through the refuges 22,000 acres were impassable Sunday morning because of downed power lines and/or fallen trees.

Some signs were destroyed, as were several windmills and lots of barbed-wire fencing. On a Monday airboat survey, Karel found sizable debris in one of the marshes. A large livestock feed bunk, from who knows where, sits in a field.

And while the refuges lone bald eagle nest is intact in a mighty cottonwood, Farmer said the staff fears its valuable contents may have been killed.

Lately only one adult bald eagle has been seen at the nest. Last week there were two that often showed behavior that indicated they were feeding young.

Farmer said staff members arent optimistic of any hatchling survival.

Though the tornado damage is obvious and widespread, Karel said things could have been much worse….