WICHITA — A rain-wrapped tornado churning toward downtown Wichita late Monday afternoon lifted just before it reached the city, weather officials said.
"We dodged a bullet," said Dick Elder, meteorologist-in-charge at the Wichita branch of the National Weather Service.
The tornado was visible from Mid-Continent Airport on the west side of the city, and airline passengers on arriving flights were hustled to shelter.
Tornado damage has been reported in Cowley County, and damage in Kingman County may be from a tornado as well.
"We're not sure if it's straight-line winds or tornado damage," a Kingman County dispatcher said of a few houses damaged between Belmont and Norwich.
"No actual towns have been hit," she said.
Two tornadoes were on the ground at the same time in Cowley County _ one of which straddled the Kansas-Oklahoma state line, said Troy Combs, public information officer for Cowley County Emergency Management.
Extensive street sign, power line and tree damage is being reported in Arkansas City, Combs said, and a tornado may have brushed the southern edge of the city.
"It looks like a heckuva storm went through," Combs said.
Damage to a barn, trailer and outbuildings has been reported six miles west and five miles southwest of Dexter, he said, and at least one home in the town was damaged as well.
Tornadoes were hopping around the southern part of the county, Combs said, so it may be difficult to determine how many there were. For the moment, he said, the official count is three.
The tornado threat for the Wichita area is diminishing, Elder said at about 6 p.m., but hail, heavy rain and strong winds are still possible later tonight.
Check Kansas.com for updates.