A tornado that barreled through parts of Kansas destroyed or damaged dozens of homes and buildings, several people injured and left more than 6,500 without power, officials said on Saturday.
Officials said the suspected twister moved though parts of south-east Wichita and over on Friday evening. The Andover fire chief, Chad Russell, said early on Saturday morning 50 to 100 buildings were damaged in Sedgwick county, though it was not immediately known how many buildings were damaged in Andover.
Russell said in some neighborhoods homes “were completely blown away”.
Officials said only a few injuries had been reported. In Sedgwick County, three people were injured, including one woman who suffered serious injuries.
Crews had already finished a secondary search of homes in Andover. There were homes knocked completely off their foundations and entire neighborhoods wiped out but no serious injuries, Russell said.
City Hall sustained damage which hampered “some of our efforts”, Russell said. Other buildings reportedly damaged included the Dr Jim Farha Andover YMCA and Prairie Creek Elementary School.
Field crews from the National Weather Service worked to determine the extent and strength of the twister, said Kevin Darmofal, a meteorologist at the Wichita office.
Flor and Aldo Delgado said they prayed in the basement of their Andover home as a tornado passed right above them, destroying their home and cars. The couple looked out of the window and saw the tornado beginning to form, so they headed to the basement.
“The lights started flickering and eventually went out, and within a minute from that the whole house started shaking and it was so loud. We started feeling water hitting our faces, and there was just dust everywhere. It lasted for what felt like a minute that it was right above us,” Aldo Delgado said.
Flor Delgado said she could hear their home being torn apart, the Wichita Eagle reported.
“In the moment I realized there is absolutely nothing we could do. I knew my husband felt it too because he was calm and comforting me, but at one point he just starts losing it and crying. I could hear his voice cracking as he’s praying,” she said.
Once the tornado passed, the couple made it out of the debris with only the clothes on their backs. Their home, cars and personal items are gone.
“We didn’t even have our wedding rings on at the time,” Flor Delgado said.
The Kansas governor, Laura Kelly, declared a state of disaster emergency for the hardest-hit areas. The declaration makes state resources available to help local jurisdictions with response and recovery efforts in areas impacted statewide.
In addition to the tornadoes, large hail was reported in several towns across the Plains. Hail the size of softballs was spotted near Holbrook, Nebraska, and Enterprise, Kansas, according to the National Weather Service and storm spotters.