WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – A tornado that hit Andover Friday night affected about 1,000 structures. The Andover Fire Department said the number is expected to climb as they do more assessments.
“We now know that our damage path extended approximately four miles, three-and-a-half to four miles to the north of where we believed it to have ended last night,” Andover Deputy Fire Chief Mike Roosevelt said at noon.
So far, there have been no deaths from the storm. Roosevelt said crews continue to search for any victims. They are doing a primary and a secondary search, even a third search in some cases. He said they are about 70% complete on the secondary searches.
The search area is both in and out of the Andover city limits. Andover Fire Chief Chad Russell 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 noon news conference
Officials in Andover continue to say there were only four minor injuries. However, Via Christi St. Francis said it got six storm patients, and four were admitted. It noted that not all of the victims were from the Andover storm.
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 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.”
Police Chief Buck Buchanan said the Kansas Highway Patrol has flown over the scene to assess the damage from the air. Officials have also used drones to survey the damage.
The FAA has now established a no-fly zone for the city of Andover and points to the north and east. The rule also applies to private drone owners. The concern is that drones may get away from their owners and land on victims or first-responders.
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.
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 and barns have suffered severe damage.
“You know, everyone says it sounds like a train,” said Sorum. “It sounded like a train.”
Andover YMCA damage
The YMCA in Andover was heavily damaged in the storm. The Andover YMCA is part of the Greater Wichita YMCA. A spokesperson sent an update around 11:15 a.m. Saturday saying the leadership team is still assessing the damage. The statement said:
“We are extremely proud of our employees at the Andover Y, who saved lives by reacting quickly in this crisis situation last evening. Employees who were both on and off duty had only minutes to react and get everyone to safety before the tornado hit the building.”
Electric, gas, water, roads update
During the night, 15,000 Evergy customers were without power. By Saturday at noon, the number was down to 1,200. 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 was closed from Andover Road to Santa Fe Lake Road. Around 1:30 p.m. Saturday, the eastbound lanes reopened. However, it could be a couple of days before the westbound lanes reopen.
The Kansas Department of Transportation is rerouting westbound traffic at Santa Fe Lake Road. Drivers can go north to either 21st Street or Kansas Highway 254 to get into Wichita.
All other major roads in Andover are open.
“It’s just the neighborhoods that we’re keeping an eye on,” Captain Ben Graber, Andover Police Department, said. “We’ve got security there. I’m just asking that people stay away from Andover for now.”
Deputy Fire Chief Roosevelt said gas and water crews are on the scene. As of noon Saturday, there are no active gas or water leaks. The workers will remain in the area doing spot checks.
If you smell a natural gas odor, leave the area immediately, then call 911.
Kansas Gas Service said it does not anticipate restoring service to the Reflection Lake area until more storm cleanup is completed. In the meantime, crews are conducting safety checks and relighting appliances where possible. KGS technicians wear company logoed clothing, yellow safety vests, and carry identification.
The City of Andover is not allowing volunteers into the damaged area yet. It will allow residents in if they show an ID at the Reflection Lakes check-in place. Volunteers may be allowed in after the secondary search is finished.
United Way of the Plains has set up a fund for disaster relief for Friday’s storm victims. Click here if you need help or if you want to offer help.
Another option is to text “teamwork” to 41444 to give on the go from your phone. Or, mail a check, payable to United Way of the Plains with “Disaster Relief Fund” in the memo, to 245 N. Water St., Wichita, KS 67202.
Corporate donations can be arranged with Anne Chandler, Vice President of Philanthropy. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or (316) 267-1321 ext. 4213.
Those needing assistance with shelter, basic needs or cleanup should dial 211, United Way’s information and referral service, to connect with available resources.
Roosevelt said that people who feel compelled to donate items or do more should call 211.
“We currently have about 200 responders continuing to actively work through the area,” Roosevelt said at noon.
He said they are from over 30 agencies, including Wichita Police, Wichita Fire, and McConnell Air Force Base.
“It has been almost seamless,” he said.
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,” Kelly said.
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.”
Andover officials plan to hold their next update at 4:30. KSN will live stream it here on KSN.com