Tornados and high winds swept across portions of Douglas, Jefferson and Shawnee counties overnight, causing damage in McLouth and Big Springs and leaving more than 1,000 Lawrence residents temporarily without power.
No one was injured at any of the reported locations, according to law enforcement agencies.
Pat Bartlett, assistant fire chief for Jefferson County Fire District No. 9, said he saw a tornado run through the streets of McLouth right at midnight while he was driving through town sounding his fire engine's sirens to warn people of severe weather.
According to Bartlett, the tornado dropped from the sky, hit some electrical lines and began to skip through the town, bouncing from structure to structure.
The tornado tore the steeple from the Nazarene Church in town, splitting it in two and leaving the pieces on either side of the church, Bartlett said. Local homes also were damaged, some extensively.
"It did a lot of damage just in our neighborhood," said Donna Garcia of McLouth. "Our neighbors across the street, it moved their garage off the foundation. It destroyed a lot of sheds and took a lot of swing sets and tossed them around."
AFTER HITTING the church, the twister bounced across the street, hit a house and continued across town, leaving a trail of destruction.
The tornado also uprooted trees, lifted roofs from homes, blew street signs out of town, blew windows out of buildings and knocked down power lines, Bartlett said. Local telephone service also was disrupted this morning.
Fire department officials estimate the damage at between $750,000 and $1 million.
Bartlett and Jim Edmonds, a fellow firefighter who was with him, said the tornado left them with a new respect for the severe weather systems.
When the tornado retreated into the sky several minutes after it touched down, law enforcement agencies set up a command post at a local school and began to assess damage.
"We're just trying to put everything back together today," Bartlett said.
McLouth apparently received the most damage during the night, according to reports.
A barn just north of Lecompton was damaged by another tornado that also reportedly touched down about midnight. An estimate of damage was not available. There were no other reports of damage in Douglas County, according to county officials.
A REPRESENTATIVE with the Douglas County Emergency Preparedness department said this morning that the severe storms began developing in the area about 10:30 p.m. Monday and got more intense until the reported sightings began about midnight.
There were reports of hail in Lawrence during the storm that dropped .30 of an inch of rain on the city. Precipitation reports from other areas included: .41 of an inch at Lecompton; .15 at Eudora; .35 at Clinton Lake; .87 at Perry Lake; and .92 at Oskaloosa.
Ron Crandall, a forecaster with the National Weather Service, said this morning that the service received about six reported tornado sightings in the state during the night.
Crandall said tornados were reported at 45th Street and Shawnee Heights road just east of Topeka; at 37th Street and Stanley Road near Big Springs; near Perry Dam; and at McLouth.
Reports were made by the general public and by law enforcement agencies, Crandall said.
Other reports during the night told of hail in Baldwin, Topeka and Overbrook, Crandall said. The hail ranged in size from pea-size to golfball-size, he said.
T.A. MINDRUP, district manager for KPL Gas Service, said this morning that lightning struck and damaged the insulation on a conductor at 21st Street and Ousdahl Road about 9 p.m. Monday, leaving 1,150 customers in that area without power for about two hours.
Four other short outages across town left nearly 100 customers without power and eight small power interruptions occurred throughout the county, affecting the service to one to five customers each, Mindrup said. All of the damage, which Mindrup called minor, was caused by lightning and not strong winds or tornados, he said.
Topeka also was hit by the tornados, which left at least 10 homes damaged, said Ken Burgett, director of Shawnee County emergency preparedness.
"There were at least two homes that were a total loss and a number with varying degrees of damage, such as roof damage and glass breakage," Burgett said. "We also had some power outages and a transformer exploded, which caused some power problems."
Most of the damaged homes were southeast of Topeka, Burgett said.
The storms continued in southwest Kansas this morning, and the weather service issued a tornado warning after law enforcement officials reported seeing a tornado 10 miles northwest of Jetmore about 8:45 a.m.
IN ADDITION, much of central and north-central Kansas was under a tornado watch this morning as showers and thunderstorms moved through the area. The storms contained heavy rain, small hail and dangerous lightning.
The strong winds and scattered thunderstorms were expected to continue in all but western Kansas today. Some severe thunderstorms were possible in eastern Kansas this afternoon.
Winds of 20 to 40 mph, with gusts of 45 to 50 mph, were possible in central and southwest parts of the state today. Highs were forecast from near 50 in the northwest to the mid-70s in the southeast.
Thunderstorms should continue in the east tonight with light rain or snow possible in the northwest. Lows were expected from low 30s in far west to near 50 in southeast.
Wednesday's forecast was for cloudy and cooler conditions and showers in the central and east sections. Highs should be in the mid-40s northwest and mid-60s southeast.
The extended forecast called for cool conditions with a chance of rain Thursday through Saturday. Highs should be in the 40s and 50s. Lows were expected to be in the upper 20s and 30s west and mid-30s and mid-40s east.
Highs Monday ranged from 80 at Coffeyville and Pittsburg to 67 at Goodland. Lows were from 66 at Wichita to 30 at Goodland.