A tornado that ripped through parts of Kansas destroyed or damaged hundreds of homes and buildings, injured several people and left more than 15,000 people without power, authorities said Saturday.
In addition to debris from the tornado itself, three University of Oklahoma meteorology students returning from storm chasing in Kansas were also killed in an accident Friday, according to authorities.
Nicholas Nair, 20, of Denton, Texas; Gavin Short, 19, of Grayslake, Illinois; and Drake Brooks, 22, of Evansville, Indiana, were killed in the crash, according to an Oklahoma Highway Patrol report.
More than 1,000 buildings were affected when a strong tornado hit Andover Friday night, according to authorities. In daylight on Saturday, emergency crews found a path of destruction more extensive than previously estimated.
No deaths or critical injuries were reported from the tornado itself, despite widespread destruction. Authorities said only a few injuries had been reported.
Search and rescue operations continued Saturday with more than 200 first responders from 30 agencies. Officials kept volunteers away from the damage until a secondary debris search was conducted.
Andover Fire Chief Chad Russell previously said some houses in the neighborhood “were completely leveled.”
There are houses completely knocked off their foundations and entire neighborhoods leveled, Russell said.
Governor Laura Kelly declared a state of disaster emergency for the most affected areas. The declaration makes state resources available to assist local jurisdictions with response and recovery efforts in affected areas throughout the state.
The Evergy power company said around 15,000 customers were without power during the tornado and work is continuing to restore power. All broken gas and water lines were shut off and no active leaks were known by noon.
The US National Weather Service sent crews on Saturday to conduct damage surveys.
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In addition to the tornadoes, large hail was reported in several Kansas Plains cities. Baseball-sized hail was detected near Holbrook, Nebraska, and Enterprise, Kansas, according to the National Weather Service and storm watchers.