WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – As the sun came up Saturday morning, residents of Andover and Rosalia came out to assess the damage from Friday night tornadoes.
With the sound of smoke alarms from damaged homes going off around the area, the destruction was apparent as residents got their first looks at destroyed homes and tossed cars.
In a news conference at 8:15 a.m. Saturday, Andover Fire Chief Chad Russell said there were no deaths.
“We have no reports of anyone missing,” Russell said. “We are still really concerned about those areas in the fire district that we have not … searched yet. That’s our primary objective, and that’s where the crews are right now.”
He said the district is 36 square miles around Andover. He said the search for victims started in Sedgwick County.
“We had damage and injuries in Sedgwick County,” Russell said. “So it started there and went all the way up to approximately 60th in Butler County, so we’re working the entire path.”
VIDEO: Officials provide update during morning press conference
Frank Williams, director of Butler County EMS, said there were only four minor injuries. All four of the victims are adults. One was injured by debris, one was injured while evacuating, and two were responding to the scene to help.
However, Via Christi St. Francis said it got six patients. Four were admitted. A hospital spokesperson said one person from the Andover storm is in critical condition. It also has a critically injured patient from a storm near Bavaria, west of Salina. The other two patients are in fair condition. The spokesperson said most of the injuries were from falls as people were coming out of storm shelters.
Russell said there are neighborhoods where houses have been “wiped completely off the foundations.” He said there were 966 buildings in the tornado’s path, but he does not know how many of those buildings were hit.
Police Chief Buck Buchanan said the Kansas Highway Patrol is flying over the scene, assessing the damage from the air. He also said they are using drones in the area.
The tornado that hit Andover first developed in the area of southeast Wichita before moving northeast.
KSN meteorologist Ronelle Williams caught video of the tornado in its earlier stages near his home when it was approaching Andover.
Chief Chad Russell, Andover Fire Department, said the sirens sounded before the tornado hit.
“It spun up very quickly. I was watching the weather very closely, and as soon as the warning could be sent, it was out there,” Russell said.
The Andover Police Department and the Andover Fire Department ask that people not come to the area because they are still trying to assess the damage.
Terry Herl owns a mobile home park in the Andover area.
“We were outside when it came through. It looked like, have you ever seen one of those dirt devils? That’s what it looked like, but then it got big,” Herl said. “This is really tore up out here.”
Jason Knipp was at work when the tornado sirens went off Friday night. He escaped injury and managed to capture video of the tornado as it went by.
“It was just crazy!” said Knipp. “They were all standing out there having a good time and nothing was going on, then all of a sudden, ‘bam’, it just happened.”
Forrest and Amanda Morrow lived next to the homes that were damaged. They are confident that the rebuild period will come sooner rather than later.
“I think we’ll rebuild over time,” said Forrest. “It’s going to take a long while, but I don’t have any doubt about that. People like to live in this area.”
Andover was not the only city in Butler County to take a hit. So did Rosalia, about 32 miles northeast of Andover. Erik Sorum, a resident of Rosalia, told KSN that many of his neighbors homes, barns have suffered severe damage.
“You know, everyone says it sounds like a train,” said Sorum. “It sounded like a train.”
The City of Wichita reported that the Wichita Police Department and Wichita Fire Department have been sent to Andover to assist.
During the night, 9,000 Evergy customers were without power. By Saturday morning, the number was down to 1,250. The company said all of its available crews are working in the area to replace downed poles and power lines.
Some of those downed poles are on U.S. Highway 54. Due to damage, the highway is closed from Andover Road to Santa Fe Lake Road.
Russell said the only donations being accepted are through UnitedWayPlains.org.
Governor Laura Kelly has declared a state of disaster emergency, activating the disaster response and recovery portions of the Kansas disaster response plan.
“We have learned from past experience that we can’t wait for the storm to hit before we respond. By taking these steps early we are able to more quickly react when the counties ask for assistance,” said Kelly.
Senator Jerry Moran responded shortly after the storm hit, saying “Praying for everyone’s safety in Andover and Wichita. I am monitoring the situation and receiving reports on the tornado damage. Please take cover as there are more storms across Kansas.”
And Ron Estes said, “There’s a lot of damage in our area tonight following severe weather and tornadoes. Susan and I are praying for all those impacted and we’re grateful for the first responders assisting our community.”
He said the next briefing will be at noon Saturday. KSN will livestream it here on KSN.com.