All Lancaster residents allowed home after long wait for some



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Posted on April 5, 2012 at 9:06 PM

Updated Thursday, Apr 5 at 11:23 PM

LANCASTER - Late Thursday afternoon, Lancaster officials finally opened all neighborhoods to frustrated tornado victims who'd been blocked from returning since Tuesday's tornado.

It eased tensions with residents like Albert Thomas, but it did make him question local leaders' common sense.

Thomas lives in an area where until Thursday afternoon, he needed a police escort to go home to get his medicine. And yet, his wife and daughter had been allowed to stay in that house since the storm hit.

"I'm still out, for all practical purposes," Thomas said. "[My wife] is still in. She and my daughter are at the house."

While the city's go-slow approach frustrated many residents Lancaster's mayor, Marcus Knight, said it was essential for public safety. Officials say the remaining streets were closed because debris blocked the roadways.

"We've got a lot of heavy equipment still moving around, trying to clear streets so people can get to where they need to get," Knight said. "Y'know, we just don't need people in areas that could put themselves potentially in harm's way."

The state's Director of Emergency Services, Nim Kidd, praised the city Thursday for a textbook perfect response.

"This response was flawless," Kidd said. "I can't think of another thing we should ask them to do next time. And my hat is off to them."

Tornado victim Garry Busby agreed, and credited the police perimeter with protecting his valuables.

So far, 151 homes and structures have been declared uninhabitable. Friday at 10 a.m. Lancaster will open a donation and assistance center where residents can tell the city what services they need, as well as pick up food, water and supplies.

They also encourage the public to drop off donations at 200 E. Wintergreen, and that will also open Friday at 10 a.m.