Dozens of buildings leveled after a powerful tornado tears through Wichita area
Originally Published: 30 APR 22 04:54 ET
By Aya Elamroussi and Michelle Watson, CNN
(CNN) -- A powerful tornado tore through the Wichita, Kansas, area Friday night, leveling dozens of structures in the city of Andover, according to officials.
The twister touched down in Sedgewick County before traveling to Andover in Butler County, the city's fire chief Chad Russell said during a news conference. More than 950 buildings were in the pathway of the tornado, he said.
"We had many buildings in Andover take very tough damage," Russell said, adding that some homes were "completely blown down."
The recovery will take years, Russell said. "Unfortunately, we've been through this before," he added, alluding to the devastation caused by an F-5 tornado that struck Andover on April 26, 1991. Seventeen people died in that tornado's wake.
Although the damage was extensive Friday, only a handful of injuries were reported by authorities early Saturday.
Andover, a city of around 15,000 people, is about 14 miles east of Wichita, Kansas.
Resident Alaina Adkins told CNN that she took shelter in her neighbor's basement across the street from her apartment complex as the tornado swept by.
"I just couldn't believe. It just didn't look real," the 26-year-old said. "We stepped out of our front door, and it was coming straight to our place," she said.
The tornado missed her home by a block, but power in her neighborhood was cut off, Adkins added.
More than 20,000 homes and businesses in Kansas were without power in the immediate aftermath. By 4 a.m. ET, that number had declined to around 8,500, according to poweroutage.us.
Videos and photos showed gutted homes, flipped cars and storm debris littering streets and front yards.
In an early estimate, Jim Jonas, the Wichita director of communications, said between 50 to 100 structures were damaged by the tornado.
One of those buildings was a YMCA community center in Andover, which suffered significant damage, city administrator Jennifer McCausland said.
14 tornadoes reported in Kansas or Nebraska
The National Weather Service in Wichita sent teams Saturday to conduct damage surveys.
Russell said there were no additional reported injuries, no fatalities, and no outstanding rescues in Andover.
"We're going to be continuing to work on getting the final assessments done on all the search and rescue issues, and that's our primary goal for this ops period for today," he said.
As cleanup work gets underway Saturday morning, Russell said, the primary objective is to get crews out to power lines down across the road on Highway 54 in Andover. "They've got a ton of work out there. But if we can get that road clear, then we can open it," the fire chief said.
Several tornadoes touched down Friday in Kansas, according to Gov. Laura Kelly, who declared a state of disaster emergency.
"We have learned from past experience that we can't wait for the storm to hit before we respond," Kelly said. "By taking these steps early we are able to more quickly react when the counties ask for assistance."
A total of 15 tornadoes -- 14 of which were across Kansas or Nebraska -- were reported Friday, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Storm Prediction Center. The other tornado was in Florida, the center said.
Additionally, there have been more than 70 reports of wind damage and over 50 reports of hail.
In Enterprise, Kansas, there was hail up to four inches in diameter.
On Saturday, the storm is expected to move east, where more than 40 million people are under the overall threat for severe storms.
A level 2 out of 5 risk for severe storms has been issued and includes Chicago, Indianapolis, St. Louis and Little Rock.
"Severe thunderstorms associated with a threat for wind damage and large hail are possible on Saturday from the lower Mississippi Valley northward into the western Great Lakes," the Storm Prediction Center said, "A couple tornadoes may also occur."
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