WICHITA, Kan. (AP) – A tornado that swept through parts of Kansas destroyed or damaged hundreds of homes and buildings, injured several people and left more than 15,000 without power, officials said Saturday.
In addition to the wreckage of the tornado itself, officials said three University of Oklahoma meteorology students traveling back from the storm chase in Kansas were also killed in a crash Friday night.
Nicholas Nair, 20, of Denton, Texas; Gavin Short, 19, of Grayslake, Illinois; and Drake Brooks, 22, of Evansville, Indiana, died in the crash shortly before 11:30 p.m. Friday, according to a report by the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.
The three were in a vehicle being driven by Nair heading south on Interstate 35 when the vehicle came with a water plan and was hit by a tractor-trailer installation in Tonkawa, about 85 miles (137 kilometers) north of Oklahoma City, it said. the report.
A statement released by OU said: “The university is devastated to hear of the tragic death of three students. They were all valued and beloved members of our community.”
More than 1,000 buildings were hit when a strong twister swept through Andover on Friday night, authorities said. In daylight on Saturday, emergency services found a more widespread path of destruction than previously estimated.
“We now know that our damage path extended about 3 1/2 to 4 miles (5.6 to 6.4 kilometers) north of where we thought it ended last night,” Andover Deputy Fire Chief Mike Roosevelt said at a briefing. .
There were no reported deaths or critical injuries from the tornado itself, despite the widespread destruction. Officials said only a few injuries had been reported. Three people were injured in Sedgwick County, including a woman who was seriously injured.
Search and rescue operations continued on Saturday with more than 200 emergency services from 30 agencies. Officials kept volunteers away from the damage until a second search for debris was made.
Andover Fire Chief Chad Russell previously said some houses in the area were “completely blown away”.
There are houses that have been completely knocked off their foundations and entire neighborhoods wiped out, Russell said.
City Hall, the Andover YMCA and Prairie Creek Elementary School were among buildings that were badly damaged.
National Weather Service field crews worked Saturday to determine the twister’s size and strength, said meteorologist Kevin Darmofal at the Wichita office.
Flor and Aldo Delgado said they were praying in the basement of their Andover home when a tornado passed directly overhead, destroying their home and cars.
The couple looked out the window Friday night and saw the tornado begin to form, so they went to the basement.
“The lights started flickering and eventually went out, and within a minute the whole house started shaking and it was so loud. We started to feel water hitting our faces, and there was just dust everywhere. It lasted for what felt like a minute was right above us,” said Aldo Delgado.
Flor Delgado said she heard their home was torn up as they prayed for their safety, the Wichita Eagle reported.
“The moment I realized there was absolutely nothing we could do. I knew my husband felt it too because he was calm and comforting me, but at some point he just started losing it and crying. I heard his voice crack as he prayed,” she said.
When the tornado was over, the couple emerged from the rubble with only the clothes on their backs. Their house, cars and personal items are gone.
“We didn’t even have our wedding rings on at the time,” added Flor Delgado.
Governor Laura Kelly has declared a state of emergency for the worst affected areas. The statement provides state resources to assist local jurisdictions with response and recovery efforts in the affected areas.
Evergy said about 15,000 customers lost power during the tornado and work continued to restore electricity. Any broken gas and water lines were shut off and no active leaks were known by midday.
In addition to the tornadoes, large hail was reported across the plains in several cities. Softball-sized hail was spotted near Holbrook, Nebraska and Enterprise, Kansas, according to the National Weather Service and Storm Spotters.