Nine tornadoes reported in area storms; damage widespread

Authorities around Wichita and south-central Kansas spent Thursday assessing the damage wrought by an outbreak of intense thunderstorms that delivered massive hail, a handful of brief tornadoes and potent winds to the region Wednesday night.

Power outages caused by the storm closed all schools in Winfield and two schools in Haysville: Campus High School and Ruth Clark Elementary. Both Haysville schools are scheduled to be open today, while Winfield schools were already scheduled to be closed for the Walnut Valley Festival.

Large hail pummeled a section of Wichita, especially the southern and western parts of the city.

"We did have significant damage in some parts of our city," said Chris Carrier, director of public works for Wichita.

Hail the size of baseballs was reported in many Wichita neighborhoods, and some the size of grapefruits and tennis balls were also reported.

"Hail was so large and heavy it came all the way through the roof" of the terminal building at Mid-Continent Airport, said Valerie Wise, air service and business development manager.

The worst damage was in the concourse next to Gates 9, 11 and 12, she said. More stones punched holes in skylights above the ticketing area.

Three aircraft — one each from Continental, United and Federal Express — were damaged by hail and need to be towed to their maintenance sheds for repairs, she said.

A half-dozen vehicles in the long-term parking lot had windshields or back windows shattered by hail. Airport passengers and employees were sent to the terminal's basement storm shelter at the height of the storm, she said.

The back nine holes at Tex Consolver Golf Course had to be closed today because hail so heavily damaged greens at the municipal course near the airport.

"You could see those humongous hailstones just drilling the fairways," said Ken Cook, a meteorologist for the weather service, which is across Tyler Road from the course.

"The water was splashing 15 to 20 feet in the air when the hail would hit the ground. It was amazing."

Auburn Hills Golf Course was closed until further notice because hail at least as large as golf balls so badly damaged the greens, Carrier said.

Volunteers converged on the course to help the grounds crew make repairs to the greens, which were pocked with deep divots.

9 tornadoes reported

The Storm Prediction Center logged nine reports of tornadoes in Kansas on Wednesday night: four in Sedgwick County, three in Cowley County and two in Greenwood County.

But Cook said the actual number of tornadoes spawned by the storm system is likely less than that.

A tornado touched down seven miles west of Derby at 6:28 p.m., another touched down six miles east of Clearwater at 6:34 p.m., another was on the ground briefly a mile east of Mulvane at 6:52 p.m., and a fourth touched down in the county a mile east of Mulvane at 7:22 p.m.

No damage or injuries were reported in connection with the tornadoes.

2 injuries in Winfield

Two minor injuries were reported at William Newton Memorial Hospital in Winfield on Wednesday night from the storm, a house supervisor at the hospital said.

Hundreds of campers in town for the Walnut Valley Festival huddled under the protection of the grandstand at the fairgrounds, and numerous tents and awnings were blown away or damaged near U.S. 160, witnesses said.

Damage in Wichita

The worst of the damage in Wichita appears to have taken place in an area bordered by Hydraulic, Meridian, Pawnee and 63rd Street South, Carrier said.

On Monday, city crews will begin collecting and disposing of tree limbs and branches left at the curb, Carrier said.

The storm snapped power lines leading to the sewage treatment plant at Hydraulic and 52nd South. The plant was without power for about an hour, Carrier said.

Substantial tree damage was also reported at the wild habitat area at South Lakes Park next to 47th South and Meridian.

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