Storm destroys barn at Zimmerman’s Kill Creek Farm
For 10 years the barn at Zimmerman’s Kill Creek Farm has been a lot of things to a lot of people. It was a place for reuniting families to come together. A place for a man and woman to be united in matrimony. A place to come get fresh vegetables from local farmers. A place to bring your kids to pick the choicest pumpkins for carving.
But after a Wednesday night’s storm, the De Soto landmark is no more.
“There is literally no hope for this (barn),” Darrel Zimmerman, owner of Kill Creek Farms, said. “I always figured the barn would outlast me.”
Around 11:20 p.m. Wednesday, high winds traveling in a northeasterly direction hit the area around Kansas Highway 10 and Kill Creek Road.
Dee Mandich, Zimmerman’s daughter, was at the home next to the barn when the winds hit.
“The whole house was shaking,” she said. “It sounded like the end of the world.”
She and her husband ran into the basement to take shelter.
After the storm had passed, they inspected the damage. Mandich looked out the window to see trees down, but no real damage to the house. But something was off. She grabbed a flashlight and went outside.
“There was something different out there,” she said. “When I looked out… there was no barn.”
She called her father and brother to come over to inspect the damage.
Zimmerman and his son Barry Zimmerman surveyed the damage. At least what they could see. After a while they went home where Darrel had a tough time trying to sleep, he said.
The true extend of the damage wasn’t known until the sun came out Thursday morning. That’s when Darrel and his family fully grasped how much they had lost.
Holding back tears, Darrel recalls a story he used to tell students about a man and oak tree.
“There used to be a man who had a big oak tree in his yard,” he said. “Every time he stepped on his porch he got to see this big oak tree. It used to give him shade. Then the water table changed and the tree started dying from the top down. After a few years they were forced to cut it down and split it up for firewood. After that he would stand up on his porch and look where the tree had been and there was a hole in the sky.
"That’s what it’s like for me. Without the barn and windmill, there’s a hole in the sky.”
Raising the barn
In 2000 Darrel and a group of community volunteers began tearing down, transporting and then rebuilding a 120-year-old barn from Gardner.
For the next five months, the group worked hard to restore the barn.
“Even though I own the property, the barn belonged to the community,” he said. “It was the community that restored the barn.”
In September of 2008 the barn sustained some damage after a tornado traveling in about the same direction hit De Soto. The barn’s roof was lifted, damaging roof braces and moving the roof out of position. It also knocked down the outhouse.
As Darrel inspected the land surrounding the barn Thursday morning, he saw trees along a valley southwest of the barn completely uprooted and a clear path of destruction heading northeast of the barn.
He is almost certain it was a tornado that had come through the area, although he didn’t hear any sirens last night.
“I just heard this screaming wind,” he said. “I turned on the TV to check the weather, but I didn’t see anything.”
Mandich began calling people who had reserved the barn for a special occasion to inform them what had happened. The barn had been rented each weekend for the next nine weeks for weddings, reunions or graduation parties. Darrell was especially upset that an organization raising money to combat cystic fibrosis was going to auction off the use of the barn in a fundraiser would have to be taken off the auction list.
Throughout the day a steady stream of people from the community stopped by to survey the damage and to check on the family and see if there was anything they could do.
“It’s just devastating to the community,” said Mitra Templin, a De Soto City Council member. “It was something that we all took pride in.”
A sign-up sheet was started for people wanting to help in the cleanup and possible restoration of the barn.
Kris Johnson, 2010 De Soto Chamber of Commerce president, said she was shocked after seeing the damage.
“I don’t know what we’ll do, but the city has to come together and we have to figure out something to get this back,” Johnson said.
Darrel thinks the community will come back to build a new barn.
“There’s been enough support in the past for what we do and enough encouragement that we will move forward and search for a similar structure that we can put back on this foundation,” he said. “It will never be exactly the same, but I would like to come back with a structure that was similar to it.”