Numerous tornadoes touched down around Kansas on Thursday afternoon, damaging houses and outbuildings in rural areas of the state.
Three houses were damaged east of Salina shortly after 4:15 p.m., a Saline County dispatcher said. No injuries were reported. The houses were in the area of the 6000 block of East Schilling Road, about 4 miles north of Gypsum.
Salina was never threatened by the tornado, the dispatcher said, so tornado sirens were not sounded for the city.
Electrician Kris Fagan was leaving a job at a construction business near Gypsum when he noticed the tornado touch down, then go back up. It touched down again about 90 seconds later.
“It was pretty exciting, but I never felt threatened,” Fagan said in an e-mail response to questions.
He watched it cross K-4 in front of him and kept his eyes on it until it disappeared from view.
A total of 18 tornadoes were reported around Kansas Thursday, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Storm Prediction Center.
A handful of them were in Clay County and four were in Cowley County, records show.
One tornado was a “brief touchdown” near Strother Field in Cowley County at 2:26 p.m., National Weather Service meteorologist Vanessa Pearce said. No damage was reported.
A second tornado touched down near Cambridge at 3:09 p.m., the weather service reported.
Trees and outbuildings were hit by the tornado, Cowley County Emergency Management assistant director John Stradel said, but there were no reports of houses being hit.
“We’re still trying to get our fingers around this,” Stradel said.
The tornado was bouncing a lot, he said: coming down for a while, then retreating back into the clouds before coming down again.
Fire trucks and emergency responders were heading to eastern Cowley County to assess the damage, he said. Another strong storm was threatening Cedar Vale, he said, but no tornado had touched down.
Students at Winfield schools went to shelter when the first tornado warning was issued at about 2:45 p.m., district spokeswoman Karen Cornejo said. They returned to their classes when the warning was lifted.
When a second tornado warning was issued as the schools were about to dismiss the students for the day, the students and staff were held at the schools for safety reasons.
“We ended up having students in buildings until about 4:25 p.m.,” Cornejo said.
Students and staff at Country View Elementary School, which is about 4 miles east of Winfield in rural Cowley County, were kept in shelter that entire time, Cornejo said.
“The action was close to where that school is,” Cornejo said.
But Country View was spared storm damage, she said.
All after-school activities, including the homecoming parade, were canceled in Wellington because of the threat of severe weather, Superintendent Mike Whitener said in an e-mail response to questions.
The squall line had moved out of the Wichita area by shortly after 8 p.m.
The tornadoes in southern Kansas struck on what was described as a slight risk day for severe weather by the Storm Prediction Center.
“There’s a lot more moisture in the air than there was on Tuesday,” Pearce, the National Weather Service meteorologist, said Thursday. “All the parameters” measuring instability “are higher today.”
Heavy rain was reported around Kansas in connection with some of the stronger storms, weather officials said. Rainfall reports of between 4.5 and 6 inches were logged from the Flint Hills into far southeast Kansas, where flash flooding and road closings were being reported, said Kevin Darmofal, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
Wichita recorded only .17 of an inch from the evening rain, Darmofal said, though other parts of the city picked up a half-inch or more. Because more rain fell earlier in the day, Thursday’s official total was .29 of an inch.
“For the most part, Wichita was spared from the heavy stuff,” Darmofal said.