A series of storms hit the Douglas County area like a sledge hammer Monday night, spawning tornadoes and pounding the area with hail and torrential rainfall. (See latest story and forecast.)
In its wake, the storm system left motorists stranded in cars bobbing in flooded streets and intersections, thousands of Lawrence residents without power and bailing flooded basements, and minor damage from high winds and pea- to dime-sized hail.
"At times we were seeing funnel clouds, but only one reported tornado on the ground and that was south of Clinton Lake, and it was brief," said 6News meteorologist Matt Sayers.
At 8:39 p.m., Douglas County Emergency Management weather spotters reported a tornado touched down briefly in the Clinton Lake area, about two miles south of Bloomington Beach. Spotters reported a funnel cloud just west of Big Springs near the Douglas/Shawnee county line, and other small twisters were seen in Shawnee County.
At 8:40 p.m., tornado sirens sounded in Lawrence.
Earlier, at 7:40 p.m. Douglas County Sheriff's deputies drove through Lecompton sounding their sirens. About the same time, a tornado had been reported in western Shawnee County.
Public schools in Eudora and Baldwin were opened as community shelters during the warnings. There is no designated shelter in Lawrence.
Throughout the evening, tornado watches were issued for Douglas, Pottawatomie, Riley, Shawnee and Wabaunsee counties. Severe thunderstorm and flash flood warnings and watches also were issued.
About 9:30 p.m., spotters reported winds of 70 mph at East Hills Business Park east of the city.
Reports of power lines down were called in from across Lawrence.
At least 3,200 Westar Energy customers lost power by the height of the storm, said Westar Energy spokeswoman Karla Olsen. Most still were without power at 10 p.m.
Most of the outages were in North Lawrence, but there were scattered outages across the city. After 11 p.m., wide outages were reported in the southeast part of Lawrence. Power line transformers were knocked out along Clinton Parkway in western Lawrence.
The official rainfall total at Lawrence Municipal Airport by 10 p.m. was 1.91 inches, but the 6News rain gauge at Seventh and New Hampshire streets recorded 2.76 inches. Widely varying totals were reported across the area.
"Not only were these storms moving very slow but you are also seeing them back-build and just sort of draining on the same spot," Sayers said. "It's just like getting dumped on over and over."
The southern part of Lawrence experienced the most flooding problems, said Emergency Management Director Paula Phillips.
"We had the usual trouble spots," she said.
But heavy rains flooded other areas as well. Just after 10 p.m. at Buford M. Watson Jr. Park east of downtown, water was high enough that it was running up and out of the park onto Tennessee Street.
Cars were trapped by high water along 19th Street east of Iowa Street; 19th through 25th streets along Haskell Avenue; Ninth Street and Harvard Road; 23rd through 25th streets and Ousdahl Road; and 31st Street and Kasold Drive.
About 9:45 p.m. at 23rd Street and Ousdahl Road, a Lawrence Police officer was chest-deep in water pushing several cars out of deep water in the intersection. It was a scene repeated across the city as rapidly rising and deceptively deep water trapped motorists in their cars.
There was no immediate count of the number of cars stranded and people rescued, Phillips said. It was not known whether anyone was injured, Phillips said.
Kansas University also had flooding problems.
"We've got flooding everywhere," a harried dispatcher said in the Kansas University Department of Public Safety as the storm subsided.
Residents at Oliver Hall went to the basement because of the tornado warning but had to move back upstairs when the basement started to flood. No other details about campus problems were available.
There is a 20 percent chance of rain today, according to the National Weather Service in Topeka.