WHEATLAND, Wyo. -- The morning after a tornado ripped through their homes, residents southwest of Wheatland returned to sift through the remains and take measure of the damage.
Under one table this morning, a soggy book of piano tunes. In one yard, a red Ford Mustang flung 50 yards by the powerful twister and set back on its wheels, its top smashed.
Homeowners, at least a dozen volunteers and others offering help and supplies worked in the area amid twisted metal, snapped power poles and debris from houses damaged, destroyed or wiped from the earth Thursday afternoon.
While the damage was extensive, the quarter-mile-wide tornado that touched down nearby at 3:15 p.m. Thursday and cut an eastward swath of destruction didn't kill anyone and injured only a handful.
One resident, Al Love, was taken by ambulance to the Platte County Memorial Hospital in Wheatland for cuts to his face, but was treated and released Thursday evening.
Love rode out the tornado in his bathtub.
Some residents weren't home when the twister roared along Olson Road before turning south along Interstate 25 toward Chugwater.
But others who survived the storm have stories to tell.
Michael Kay, owner of a tree farm, was riding his all-terrain vehicle when he was slammed by a wall of wind.
"It hit me like a ton of bricks, like 'whomp,'" he said.
He hung on to the vehicle and made it to his log cabin home, where he and his wife took shelter from the violent twister.
Platte County Sheriff's Deputy Sandra Hranchak lives two miles from the tornado's path and watched as the storm struck.
"It was just this huge wall of hail," she said. "You could see the hail just pummeling this area."
And with the hail, the tornado.
When it passed, she donned her uniform and drove her patrol vehicle to the devastated area, now alive with downed but still hot power lines. She was the first emergency responder to arrive on-scene.
Hranchak ran through the fields from home to home, checking on residents and notifying dispatchers of what she found.
Kay emerged from his home to find his trees bent to the ground. For a tree farmer, rain is a good thing.
But not like this.
"You see this on television, you know, where somebody will say, 'How was I saved and my neighbors were totally devastated?'" He said this morning. "And instead of feeling good about that, that you weren't damaged, you feel bad really, almost guilty that you were saved and they were damaged."
As homeowners surveyed the damage in the morning light, there were signs the tornado's rage hadn't beaten down those who live in the area.
A U.S. flag stood free above a pile of debris. Another flag, muddy but whole, was slung proudly over a porch which stood alone in front of a house that no longer rose behind it.
"It is a very strong community," Hranchak said. "Many people have been here for eons. I think we'll be really surprised by how quickly it will be rebuilt."
As she spoke, volunteers continued to arrive, volunteering trailers and boxes and asking what they could do to help.
Hranchak checked with Kay. Was he going to be OK? Did he need a place in town to stay?
"Wyoming people are pretty tough," he told the deputy.