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Massive Tornado Rolls Across North-Central Kansas

Kansas Public Radio

Emergency officials are assessing the damage in Kansas after a massive tornado rolled across the north-central part of the state, destroying at least two dozen homes.

The tornado, nearly a half-mile wide at times, remained on the ground for nearly 90 minutes as it churned near the towns of Solomon, Chapman and Abilene.

The twister cut a path 28 miles long and crossed Interstate 70, the main east-west highway across Kansas.

The tornado was described by the National Weather Service as “catastrophic." It left a trail of destruction, but there were apparently no serious injuries or deaths. This was a relatively slow-moving tornado, moving along at just 15 to 20 miles an hour, which gave most residents plenty of time to take shelter.

Dickinson County Administrator Brad Homman says one house just west of Chapman took a direct hit.

“The one occupant that was home at the time fortunately was in the basement. She couldn’t get out on her own, and she had to be rescued. A wall had to be removed to get her out," Homman says. "Fortunately she’s fine, and walked away from it, but from what I’m told the whole farmstead is gone.”

Eight homes were destroyed, and officials say there was heavy damage to an additional 15-20 homes and farmsteads. The same storm also destroyed one home, and another was heavily damaged in Ottawa County. Damage was reported to numerous barns, outbuildings, numerous miles of power lines and a set of railroad tracks. There have been reports of multiple power outages in the region.

“We have not been apprised of any injuries, believe it or not. We haven’t had any. I did hear on the news that there might have been a couple of people that self-reported to Geary Community Hospital or somewhere with some minor injuries, but we have not had any injuries reported, which, to me, is miraculous," Homman says. 

Search and rescue teams are continuing to look for anyone they might have missed.

The Red Cross has opened a shelter in Abilene, but the only people there as of midnight were the volunteers.

“It would not surprise me if they don’t get any takers, because people in the rural environment are very close to their neighbors and families, and typically will go to a neighbor or to a family member to stay before they’d go to a shelter," Homman says. "But it’s available if they need it.”

Dickinson County has opened a phone bank for individuals interested in volunteering. Call 785-263-4812 for details. At this time, individuals are being asked to not self-deploy to the area.

Chapman Fire has requested 2-1-1 to set up a virtual warehouse for large donations of trucks and trailers.

The Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma, says there's a "moderate risk" for tornadoes in Kansas on Thursday, including some twisters with winds above 136 mph. Forecasters say storms will develop by mid-afternoon in southwestern Kansas and then move toward more-populated areas of the state. Some storms could also form in northwestern Oklahoma.