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Crews evaluate damage after tornadoes rake western Kansas

Timelapse of tornado in western Kansas

Watch the dramatic timelapse of a tornado as it touches down near the western Kansas town of Scott City within a few miles of Ramsey Farms on May 24, 2016. (Video courtesy of Ramsey Farms)
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Watch the dramatic timelapse of a tornado as it touches down near the western Kansas town of Scott City within a few miles of Ramsey Farms on May 24, 2016. (Video courtesy of Ramsey Farms)

DODGE CITY – Crews are evaluating the damage Wednesday after tornadoes destroyed several homes and left two people critically injured in western Kansas as a series of severe storms swept across the Plains.

Meanwhile, one person drowned in central Oklahoma after a vehicle was swept off a road and a 13-year-old boy was found safe in northeastern Arkansas three hours after falling into a flooded drainage pipe.

Watch the dramatic timelapse of a tornado as it touches down near the western Kansas town of Scott City within a few miles of Ramsey Farms on May 24, 2016. (Video courtesy of Ramsey Farms)

The most damage in Kansas was reported in Ford and Hodgeman counties, where a storm dropped multiple tornadoes during a two-hour span Tuesday night, said meteorologist Andrew White of the National Weather Service office in Dodge City. He said less damaging tornadoes were reported in two other Kansas counties.

Emergency management officials in Ford County reported that two people were critically injured Tuesday night and taken to a hospital in Dodge City, the Kansas Adjutant General’s Department said in a statement early Wednesday.

No fatalities were reported.

Preliminary reports indicate that at least one of the Kansas tornadoes was a half-mile wide. White said crews were working to determine how many tornadoes touched down, their strength and how long they were on the ground.

Besides damaged homes, White says U.S. 50 was temporarily closed because a tractor-trailer was toppled in the storm. He said a large propane tank tipped over and leaked near Dodge City, where 3-inch hail also was reported.

In Sedgwick County, 2.13 inches of rain fell at Wichita Eisenhower National Airport overnight, according to Scott Smith, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service. “That’s not a record or anything,” Smith said. “It falls into normal parameters.”

There has been 13.37 inches of rain this year, which is 2.65 inches above normal, he said.

But the month of May, even after Tuesday night’s storm, hasn’t been that wet, Smith said. It’s rained a little less than 6 inches so far, which does not even crack the top 25 all-time rainfall records. Last year it rained 11.77 inches in May, good for second all time.

There is a flood warning for southern portions of Sedgwick County and Sumner County, which expired at 9 a.m. Smith said, if no further flooding is reported. Another portion of eastern Sedgwick County and Butler County has a flood warning until 12:30 p.m.

“Generally all that is, is there might be some streets closed because of water over the road and that is pretty typical of downtown Wichita,” Smith said. “When a storm goes over Wichita you have nothing but concrete everywhere so you get flooding.”

An accident on the Kansas Turnpike near K-15 closed a lane early in the morning according to the Kansas Turnpike Authority, but it wasn’t related to flooding.

In Oklahoma, the drowning happened early Wednesday when a vehicle was swept into a drainage culvert near Davenport, about 50 miles northeast of Oklahoma City, the highway patrol said. The National Weather Service said 3 to 6 inches of rain fell in parts of Oklahoma, and that a flood warning was in effect through Wednesday afternoon.

In Arkansas, the boy who fell into a storm drain wasn’t seriously hurt. Police Cpl. Jason Chester tells television station KAIT that the boy said he clung to a pole. He was rescued after two officers heard his cries for help and pulled him to safety.

Elsewhere, several structures were damaged when a “probable” tornado touched down in northeast Oklahoma, near Bristow, according to the weather service. The Oklahoma Highway Patrol said no one was injured.

In Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, two weak tornadoes snapped pine trees, the National Weather Service said. No injuries were reported. The agency said the first tornado was detected near Republic, Michigan, on Tuesday afternoon and the second a short time later nearby.

In Colorado, several tornadoes were reported Tuesday but the most serious damage appears to have been caused by hail.

The National Weather Service reported hail caused extensive damage to buildings and vehicles near Platner and Otis in Washington County on the Eastern Plains. Tornadoes knocked power poles down in Adams County, while smaller hail piled up like snow in some parts of the Denver area.

Tornado warnings also were issued the Texas Panhandle, and the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma, said storms can be expected throughout the week in the Great Plains.

Contributing: Oliver Morrison of The Eagle

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