WICHITA, Kan. — A suspected tornado that barreled through parts of Kansas destroyed or damaged dozens of homes and buildings, injured several people and left more than 6,500 people without power, officials said Saturday.
Officials said the suspected twister moved though parts of southeast Wichita and Andover on Friday evening. Andover Fire Chief Chad Russell said during a news conference early Saturday morning that 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 have already finished a secondary search of homes in Andover. There are homes knocked completely off their foundations and entire neighborhoods wiped out, but no serious injuries, Russell said.
City Hall also 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.
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 Friday night 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 as they prayed for their safety, 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 added.
Gov. 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.