Lawrence residents at work in Kansas City area take shelter from Wednesday’s storms

This photo, taken by Mike Illig, shows a funnel cloud forming over Leawood near I-435 and Mission Road Wednesday, May 25, 2011.

Lawrence residents took cover at their jobs Wednesday morning in the Kansas City area as tornado warnings were issued there but no major damage was reported to the metropolitan area.

However, about 20 people were reported injured due to heavy tornado damage to the east in Sedalia, Mo.

Clay Britton, an attorney at the Kansas City, Mo., firm Lathrop and Gage who works on the 23rd floor of a building in the Crown Center district, took shelter in a parking garage around 11:30 a.m. Wednesday as tornado sirens sounded. An intercom announcement had encouraged employees to enter stairwells or head to the garage.

He said the tornado warnings put people on edge because of the outbreak of deadly and damaging tornadoes in recent days, including an EF-5 tornado that killed more than 120 people Sunday evening in Joplin, Mo.

“I think there’s a heightened sense of making sure you take every precaution after what happened in Joplin,” said Britton, a 28-year-old Lawrence resident who has two Kansas University degrees.

Britton spent time in the parking garage checking in with his father and brother who work in the Country Club Plaza area to make sure they were taking shelter. He said fellow employees were constantly texting and calling family members as well.

Lawrence resident Amanda Davis, who works on the second floor of a Waddell and Reed firm building in Overland Park near Shawnee Mission Parkway and Lamar Avenue, said the skies outside didn’t appear to be that ominous when the sirens sounded.

But she and her co-workers took shelter anyway in a stairwell because most of them were thinking about the Joplin tornado.

“Everybody was thinking about it,” she said. “The whole company was on top of everything. It’s right there in your mind. You’re thinking this could happen anywhere. It’s not just Joplin.”

Andrew Hess, a Lawrence resident and KU computer engineering student, was working on the second floor of the Garmin International warehouse in Olathe when he heard the tornado warning announcement over his handheld radio and then heard the sirens from outside.

Quickly, he pulled out his iPhone to check the weather.

“I read that a cell was moving toward Belton, Mo., where my mother lives, so I gave her a call and told her to take shelter immediately,” Hess wrote in an email.

As he took shelter in a safe location in the warehouse, he was also relaying live tweets about the storm to his co-workers. Hess said people seemed to be calm, and there was no damage to the warehouse. They were allowed to return to work around noon.

Oh, and his mother — she made it to the basement and was OK, too.