Tornadic winds hit Lawrence
Residents urged to stay indoors
Lawrence appeared to have avoided a second storm this afternoon, after a first early morning squall wreaked havoc across the entire city.
With tornado sirens briefly offline early in the afternoon – service was later restored – police took to the streets, warning residents to take shelter from the “large, dangerous band of storms” that officials said could be worse than the first blow.
However, that storm stayed to the south of the city. Tornado warnings were issued this afternoon for Leavenworth and Wyandotte counties. Those had expired as of 2:45 p.m., said Jennifer Schack, 6News meteorologist. Lawrence and Douglas County were remaining in a tornado watch until 10 p.m.
But the first round, which hit shortly after 8 a.m., was plenty bad.
One Kansas University student was reported with minor injuries. Lawrence Memorial Hospital reported that three people with storm-related injuries were being treated there, one with scalp lacerations, two others from an automobile accident in which the vehicle flipped over.
Across the city, power lines were down, creating hazards and leaving tens of thousands of residents without electricity. Reports from across Lawrence indicated that mobile home parks had been severely damaged, that fallen trees had destroyed cars and battered homes.
Tim Pinnick from the city’s Neighborhood Resources department walked downtown blocks surveying damage, trying to get a handle on exactly how many homes and storefronts were wrecked in the storm.
“We can’t really get around the city,” because of heavy traffic and downed trees, Pinnick said.
He didn’t have an estimate on damage yet, but found several buildings with blown out windows, awnings ripped from buildings and whole sections of roofing strewn along sidewalks and streets.
About 2 p.m., Westar Energy officials estimated that about 10,000 Lawrence residents were still without power.
Power outages continue in various parts of Lawrence, but other portions of the city had normal utility service. Mark Schreiber, a spokesman for Westar Energy, said six circuits were out between Lawrence and Olathe.
More than 12,000 Lawrence-area customers were without power as of 11 a.m., Schreiber said, but power had been restored to another 12,000 customers already.
“We’ve got crews coming in from Salina, Manhattan and Topeka to help with restoration,” he said.
On U.S. Highway 40 west of Lawrence, large hailstones covered the pavement after the storm swept through. The Kansas Turnpike Authority reported that a semi overturned near the East Lawrence exist at mile marker 204; both lanes of traffic were blocked, but passenger traffic was getting through in one westbound lane.
KU officials were contemplating cancelling classes on Monday; they said they would make an announcement by 8 p.m. today.
KU Public Safety Chief Ralph Oliver was asking residents to stay away from campus.
“We’ve got stuff coming off rooftops, and we don’t want anyone to get injured,” he said.
Templin Hall was evacuated, but students were quickly allowed back in the building, according to a witness. A large tree was felled near Frasier Hall and roofing material from the building was scattered across the lawn.
All KU facilities operations employees were asked to report to the facilities operations administration building immediately.
Douglas County Emergency Management sounded tornado sirens as the storm moved through.
“We had some reports of confirmed tornadoes within city limits,” said Teri Smith with Douglas County Emergency Management. “We do have damage reports of people who’ve lost their roofs, downed trees.”
Emergency authorities were responding to reports of trees down across the city, including one apparently on fire from a lightning strike. A semi truck was reported knocked over near Home Depot at 31st and Iowa. Debris littered streets across town.
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Smith said her office had been in contact with the National Weather Service.
The service is “not going to rule out a tornado at this time,” Smith said. “We’re not going to rule out a downburst, but as you know, a downburst can be just as damaging as a tornado.”
“We actually saw it,” said Brenda Mayberry, who was at 2200 Harper when the storm struck. “It was a funnel.”
Neighbors near the Nunemaker-Ross farm northwest of Lawrence reported seeing a tornado touch down, killing several cattle. That report is not yet confirmed.
“We had a small tornado touch down in our backyard,” said Kris Kohnke, calling in from her home in the 2700 block of Inverness Court.
One witness on Pleasant Street in North Lawrence said a number of trees had been broken in half, that one residential roof had been torn away, and that a backyard shed had ended up in a nearby yard.
On the 900 block of Rhode Island St., residents took turns sawing downed trees and calling landlords. One tree cracked apart and crashed into two houses.
Sara McManus’ roof blew off in the wind, landing a few feet away from her house. She paced the sidewalk, talking to her landlord.
“I’m just piling all my stuff into the front room,” she said. “I hope it doesn’t rain again.”
Trees were reported to have crashed into houses at Eighth and Ash streets, and 20th and Tennessee streets. Power lines were reported down near Bishop Seabury Academy, 4120 Clinton Parkway.
A mobile home park at 2200 Harper was also badly damaged, according to residents.
“We had a lot of trees knocked over onto trailers,” said Audrey Williams, calling in from the park. “There’s quite a few (damaged). I don’t know exactly how many.”
Officials at KU said that, with power out, computer centers would be closed and not re-opened for several hours.
More details as they become available.
¢ Classes at New York School and Central Junior High are canceled.
¢ St. John the Evangelist Church religious education classes are canceled.
¢ Community Children’s Center Head Start, 925 Vt., is canceled Monday due to facilities damage.
¢ The Yoga Center of Lawrence has canceled today’s afternoon class above Milton’s, 920 Mass.
¢ Lawrence Community Theater’s Sunday afternoon performance is canceled.
¢ HIlltop Child Development Center is closed on Monday.
¢ Before and after-school programs at Hillcrest, Sunflower and Prairie Park schools are closed on Monday.