With an estimated 100 tornadoes leaving a wake of destruction across the state, it looked like Wichita might avoid any serious damage. However, at 10:15 p.m. a tornado warning was issued for Wichita and as Midnight neared, what was reported as a “large” tornado tore through Oaklawn north of Derby, through the Spirit complex at 31st St. S. and Oliver, Boeing and McConnell Air Force Base.
A shelter has been set up by the American Red Cross at the Derby Recreation Center, 801 E. Market, in Derby for those who have been affected by the storm in south Wichita.
Power lines are down around Hawker Beechcraft along with property damage, and the morning is likely to bring many downed limbs, debris and damage to roofs and buildings that just isn’t visible in the dark.
About 25,000 people in Sedgwick County are without power. Current estimates of damage are in the near $300 million range. Sedgwick County has declared a state of disaster and the disaster emergency management plan is in force. Gov. Brownback has issued a declaration of disaster for the state.
Two mobile home parks suffered extensive damage with the worst at Pinaire Mobile Home Park in which a fire is burning suspected as a result of a ruptured gas line. Reports on KSN TV say that as much as 50% of the 250 mobile homes in the park were destroyed or suffered significant damage. Deer Lake Estates at K-15 and 47th St. S. also sustained damage.
Thankfully throughout the evening, the hospitals were not reporting any serious injuries as a result of the storm coming in. Statewide, an estimated 45 reports of injury came in, which is quite low considering the number of tornadoes moving through the state.
The American Red Cross Midway-Kansas Chapter is already searching for temporary shelters for those whose homes have suffered extensive damage and gathering volunteers to be able to help with processing requests for help. As many people still have their cell phones to access the Internet, information will be posted to the Midway-Kansas Chapter Facebook page.
To conserve phone power, you can list yourself as safe for family members who don’t use Facebook or Twitter on the American Red Cross Safe and Well page. Likewise, if you have family elsewhere that was hit with one of the larger tornadoes, check this page to see if they have registered.
If you’d like to help, you can text 90999 to donate $10 to the American Red Cross for the relief efforts related to tonight’s tornadoes. Volunteers will be needed in the affected areas. You can download a volunteer application form from the Midway-Kansas Chapter web site.
Make an appointment to donate blood with the Midway-Kansas Chapter Blood Services. Blood donations tend to be slower in spring and disasters like this one increase the strain on the available blood supply.
One of the simplest ways to help is to avoid the affected areas when traveling to work or church Sunday morning and to school or work on Monday. Tune in to your favorite news station in the morning as more reports are sure to come in come daylight.
Spirit Aerosystems released a statement that the facility received significant damage and workers scheduled to report tonight or Sunday morning were not to come in, unless they were specifically contacted to come to work, as operations are being suspended until the full extent of the damage to six of the buildings can be assessed.
These street closings are from the Sedgwick County Emergency Management list:
- 47th Street S. from Spruce to K-15
- 47th St. S. & Hydraulic
- 47th St. S. & K-15
- 63rd St. S. & Hydraulic
- 63rd St. S. & K-15
- 55th St. S. & K-15
These areas of damage and possible road closures or difficulty driving due to debris come from the various news reports through the evening:
- Oliver is blocked off past 31st St. S.
- Rock Road and Pawnee are blocked off
- MacArthur east of K-15 may be blocked off
- Broadway is closed south of Haysville
- Roads are blocked off around Hawker Beechcraft
- Avoid 52nd St. S. and Clifton
Whatever you do, please do not travel to the affected areas. Throughout the night, news crews were reporting so much traffic, especially in south Wichita, that it was even hard for emergency vehicles to get in to help. Unless you live in the area and are trying to get home, you will not be allowed through.
Flash flooding is occuring in and around Wichita and residents are encouraged not to go out unless they have to. Sedgwick County Emergency Management advised motorists not to venture into water for which the depth cannot be determined and to turn around and seek a safe route.
Most cars will float (and be swept away) in 18-24 inches of moving water. Trucks and SUVs are not much better with only 6-12 more inches of clearance. Creeks and rivers can rise very rapidly and the road bottom can also wash away making the water much deeper than it appears.
A thunderstrom warning and tornado watch are in effect until 6 a.m. Straight line winds are expected so there will be more damage to come. If you are in an affected area and want to share information, please leave a comment.