KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV/AP) — A vicious storm tore through the Kansas City area, spawning tornadoes that downed trees and power lines, damaged homes and injured at least a dozen people in the latest barrage of severe weather.
The storms in Kansas City Tuesday were the 12th straight day that at least eight tornadoes were reported to the National Weather Service.
Kansas Governor Laura Kelly said President Donald Trump granted the state's request for an emergency federal disaster declaration for 18 Kansas counties affected by severe weather, heavy rains and flooding that currently is impacting the state.
"The president’s assistance is for the counties of Anderson, Butler, Chautauqua, Cherokee, Coffey, Cowley, Crawford, Elk, Franklin, Greenwood, Harvey, Montgomery, Neosho, Osage, Reno, Sumner, Wilson, and Woodson. Additional designations may be made at a later date if requested by the state and warranted by the results of further evaluation," Kelly said. "Due to extreme weather and flooding, Kansas is facing significant weather related challenges. I’m pleased the president granted these counties emergency support. Sadly, with additional devastating storms hitting several communities tonight, this may only be the beginning of the support Kansas needs."
After several quiet years, the past couple of weeks have seen an explosion of tornado activity with no end to the pattern in sight.
A large and dangerous tornado touched down on the western edge of Kansas City, Kansas, late Tuesday, the National Weather Service office reported.
At least a dozen people were admitted to the hospital in Lawrence, 40 miles west of downtown Kansas City, Missouri, and home to the University of Kansas, hospital spokesman Janice Early said. Damage also was reported in the towns of Linwood, Bonner Springs and Pleasant Grove in Kansas.
But the Kansas City metropolitan area of about 2.1 million people appeared to have been spared the direct hit that was feared earlier in the evening when the weather service announced a tornado emergency.
Mark Duffin, 48, learned from his wife and a television report that the large tornado was headed toward his home in Linwood, about 30 miles west of Kansas City.
Heart to Heart International currently has trucks and mobile medical units deployed to Linwood, Kansas, where they’re stationed at the elementary school to assist those in need.
The next thing he knew, the walls of his house were coming down.
Duffin said that he grabbed a mattress, followed his 13-year-old to the basement and protected the two of them with the mattress as the home crashed down around them.
"I'm just glad I found my two dogs alive," he said. "Wife's alive, family's alive, I'm alive. So, that's it."
Thankfully, everyone in a neighborhood just off 59 Highway in Lawrence was not hurt.
Monday marked the record-tying 11th straight day with at least eight tornadoes in the U.S., said Patrick Marsh, a Storm Prediction Center meteorologist. The last such stretch was in 1980. The weather service website showed at least 27 reports of tornadoes on Tuesday, most in Kansas and Missouri but also in Pennsylvania and Illinois.
Outbreaks of 50 or more tornadoes are not uncommon, having happened 63 times in U.S. history, with three instances of more than 100 twisters, Marsh said. But Monday's swarm was unusual because it happened over a particularly wide geographic area and came amid an especially active stretch, he said.
A couple miles east of I-35 about half way between 92 Highway and 69 Highway, a friend of the couple who lives in a house said a neighbor down the road lost two barns, another had some home damage, and trees are down all over.
As for why it's happening, Marsh said high pressure over the Southeast and an unusually cold trough over the Rockies are forcing warm, moist air into the central U.S., triggering repeated severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. And neither system is showing signs of moving, he said.
After several quiet years, tornadoes have erupted in the United States over the last two weeks as a volatile mix of warm, moist air from the Southeast and persistent cold from the Rockies clashed and stalled over the Midwest.
Scientists say climate change is responsible for more intense and more frequent extreme weather such as storms, droughts, floods and fires, but without extensive study they cannot directly link a single weather event to the changing climate.