Governor views 30-plus miles of Kansas tornado damage

photo by: Sara Shepherd

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly makes remarks outside the Douglas County Judicial and Law Enforcement Center in Lawrence on Thursday, May 30, 2019, after viewing tornado damage across Douglas and Leavenworth counties. Kelly is pictured with Maj. Gen. Lee Tafanelli, Kansas adjutant general, director of Kansas homeland security and director of emergency management.

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly took a flight tour Thursday over the path of an EF-4 tornado that left nearly 32 miles of destruction in Douglas and Leavenworth counties.

Kelly described feeling “incredibly overwhelmed” seeing the devastation in full from the air.

“It just keeps going on and on,” she said. “The fact that there was not a fatality is amazing.”

Kelly also viewed tornado damage from the ground Thursday, and afterward made remarks at a news conference in Lawrence alongside Maj. Gen. Lee Tafanelli, Kansas adjutant general, director of Kansas Homeland Security and director of emergency management.

The tornado joins recent historic flooding in putting extra strain on the state, which Kelly said had been hit by the most extreme weather in its recorded history.

“I think it’s testing Kansans, and they’re coming together,” she said.

She described the tornado victims she talked to as “resilient” as they tackle cleaning up and rebuilding.

photo by: Sara Shepherd

Residents work among snapped-off trees to clean up limbs and other tornado debris at a property on East 1256 Road, south of Lawrence, on Thursday, May 30, 2019.

She and Tafanelli both praised local first responders for providing early warnings to residents before the tornado hit and for leading recovery efforts after the storm.

About 6:15 p.m. Tuesday, the tornado touched down south of Lawrence and continued northeast for more than 31 miles before lifting in Leavenworth County. Douglas County officials said the storm injured 17 people, three of them seriously, and damaged more than 60 homes.

At its peak, the twister was a mile wide, reached 170 mph winds and rated an EF-4 on the Enhanced Fujita wind intensity rating scale, according to the National Weather Service.

Kelly’s office announced Wednesday that Douglas and Leavenworth counties had been added to a state disaster proclamation.

Kelly said Thursday that she wanted storm-affected Kansans to know state leaders were working to ensure the resources they need to recover are available. The state has also requested and received a presidential declaration, and FEMA crews are on the ground, Kelly and Tafanelli said.

The state made its initial request for federal emergency assistance before the tornado, and a federal emergency disaster declaration was granted for 18 of the 46 counties requested, according to Ashley All, spokeswoman for the governor. She said after Tuesday’s severe weather, the governor added seven more counties to the request and was waiting to hear if the president expands the disaster declaration to additional counties.

photo by: Sara Shepherd

Tornado-damaged houses and an uprooted tree are pictured at the corner of North 1100 Road and East 1400 Road, south of Lawrence, on Thursday, May 30, 2019.

Related stories

May 29 — County’s largest tornado in decades injured 17 people, damaged more than 60 homes, officials say

May 29 — Tornado news and notes: When sirens sound, some businesses lock up — know where to seek shelter

May 29 — Tornado news and notes: Pendletons clean up heavy damage on farm east of Lawrence

May 29 — ‘I’m lucky’: Hard-hit Linwood residents reflect on disaster

May 30 — Crews descend on northeast Kansas to restore electricity after tornado

May 30 — Governor views 30-plus miles of Kansas tornado damage

May 30 — Basehor pitches in with tornado relief efforts in Linwood; donations being accepted

May 30 — Red Cross closes fairgrounds shelter; official says no tornado victims showed up


Contact Journal-World public safety reporter Sara Shepherd

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