WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The tornado that damaged more than more than 1,000 buildings in south-central Kansas generated winds up to 165 mph and carved a path of destruction nearly 13 miles long.
The National Weather Service said the tornado that caused extensive damage Friday mostly in the Wichita suburb of Andover and injured several people rated an EF-3 on the Enhanced Fujita scale it uses to assess tornadoes.
Andover Fire Chief Chad Russell said that at least 300 to 400 buildings were destroyed by the storm as part of a total of 1,074 buildings that were damaged. The Weather Service said the tornado was on the ground for 21 minutes Friday evening.
Four people, including two firefighters who were responding to a call in Andover, were injured during the storm but their injuries were minor.
Russell said it will take years for Andover to recover from this storm.
“The city of Andover will be affected by this for years,” he said. “We still have scars from 1991 (EF-5 tornado). I’m so thankful this tornado was not as bad as that, but we will literally be doing this for years.”
By Sunday, utility crews had restored power to nearly all of the more than 15,000 customers who lost power during the storm. Evergy said less than 1,000 people still lacked power in the Wichita area Sunday morning.
Flor and Aldo Delgado said they prayed in the basement of their Andover home as a tornado passed right above them, destroying their home and cars.
The couple looked out of the window Friday night and saw the tornado beginning to form, so they headed to the basement.
“The lights started flickering and eventually went out, and within a minute from that the whole house started shaking and it was so loud. We started feeling water hitting our faces, and there was just dust everywhere. It lasted for what felt like a minute that it was right above us,” Aldo Delgado said.
Flor Delgado said she could hear their home being torn apart as they prayed for their safety, the Wichita Eagle reported.
“In the moment I realized there is absolutely nothing we could do. I knew my husband felt it too because he was calm and comforting me, but at one point he just starts losing it and crying. I could hear his voice cracking as he’s praying,” she said.
Once the tornado passed, the couple made it out of the debris with only the clothes on their backs. Their home, cars and personal items are gone.
“We didn’t even have our wedding rings on at the time,” Flor Delgado added.
Gov. Laura Kelly declared a State of Disaster Emergency for the hardest hit areas. The declaration makes state resources available to help local jurisdictions with response and recovery efforts in areas impacted statewide.
In addition to the tornadoes, large hail was reported in several towns across the Plains. Hail the size of softballs was spotted near Holbrook, Nebraska, and Enterprise, Kansas, according to the National Weather Service and storm spotters.