Not in Kansas: Sometimes, ya just have to mow the lawn

I chatted with my 70ish-year-old mother the other day, and she said the rain had let up enough in Brantford, Ontario (that’s in Canada) so that she could cut the lawn.

She didn’t mention anything about tornadoes.

Ashifa Kassam of The Guardian reports a Canadian man’s commitment to lawn care has earned him international fame, after social media lit up with a photo of him mowing the lawn as a large tornado loomed on the horizon.

On Friday evening, as dark clouds began to gather near Three Hills, Alberta, Theunis Wessels paid little mind. Instead his thoughts were focused on the busy weekend that lay ahead for the family.

The list of chores he was hoping to get done included cutting the lawn. “I had to get it cut,” he told CTV News. “A lot of things happening over the weekend. Children were attending swim meets and some other sporting events over the weekend, so I had to make sure I got it done.”

He began mowing the lawn while his wife was napping. His nine-year-old daughter, nervous about the swirling twister gathering behind him, urged him to come inside. When he refused, she woke up his wife.

His wife, Cecilia Wessels, came out shortly after and snapped a few pictures, including one that captured her husband casually mowing the lawn against the dramatic backdrop of the tornado. It was the first time anyone in the family, originally from South Africa, had seen a tornado.

“I did ask him if he was coming inside with that thing in the clouds when I turned to come inside and he calmly said no,” she told the Associated Press.

Tornado hits Manhattan (Kansas)

I love Manhattan (Kansas).

People are always asking me, with a bemused, smug look, Kansas? Why would you move to Kansas?

I explain to them how Manhattan is huddled in the Flint Hills, beautiful spot, and most of the bad weather goes around Manhattan.

Not last night.

The townhouse Amy used to live in probably doesn’t exist anymore. That was one of two areas of town that got hammered by a tornado about 11 pm Central time.

ABC affiliate KTKA in Topeka captured the tornado on video as it entered Manhattan, at least until the camera on the weather tower got taken out (see below).

Cheryl May, Kansas State University’s (awesome) director of media relations extraordinaire, told CNN the storm destroyed a wind erosion lab, damaged several engineering and science buildings and tore the roof off a fraternity house at the school (right, Weber Hall, home of much of Animal Science).

"Our campus is kind of a mess."

There were no immediate reports of injuries, she said.

In an update released at 8 a.m. (CST), Tom Rawson, vice president for administration and finance, estimated storm damage at Kansas State University to exceed $20 million.

"The damage on campus is extensive. Roofs have been damaged or torn off, windows have been blown out in many buildings. Weber Hall is severely damaged. The Wind Erosion Lab is gone. There is significant damage to the engineering complex, and to Waters, Call, Cardwell and Ward Hall."

And since my students don’t seem to know, but of course read barfblog, classes are cancelled for today.

Local radio station KMAN has a complete list of known damage. People are being asked to stay away from damaged areas — and there are various unsubstantiated reports of looting.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has the following food safety advice after a weather emergency:

Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature.

Discard refrigerated perishable food such as meat, poultry, fish, soft cheeses, milk, eggs, leftovers and deli items after 4 hours without power.

Never taste a food to determine its safety

Drink only bottled water if flooding has occurred

Undamaged, commercially prepared foods in all-metal cans and retort pouches (for example, flexible, shelf-stable juice or seafood pouches) can be saved.

When in Doubt, Throw it Out

If you have any firsthand reports, pictures or video, send it along. Amy and I are going to start working our way home from Quebec City.