KC metro area hit by four tornadoes

Monday, May 5, 2003

RIVERSIDE, Mo. -- A powerful tornado that stayed on the ground for at least 2 1/2 hours hit the Kansas City area Sunday afternoon, killing at least one person and injuring an unknown number.

The victim's name and other details were not immediately available.

Don Denney, a spokesman for Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kan., said searchers were looking for other victims.

He said dozens of homes were significantly damaged and several were destroyed.

In some places, the swath of destruction was one-quarter mile wide as the tornado moved through the western and northern parts of the metropolitan area.

Providence Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan., confirmed that it was treating injured victims, one of several reported in Kansas and Missouri. Officials there could not immediately estimate how many injured were being treated.

Gas leaks reported

Denney said the city was fielding reports of gas leaks and electrical problems soon after the storm, and that electricity was out briefly at Providence Medical Center.

Army National Guard Maj. Gen. Greg Gardner, Kansas' director of emergency management, said state officials knew of four tornadoes that touched down: one each in Leavenworth, Wyandotte, Miami and Crawford counties.

He did not have an immediate damage estimate.

The largest tornado first touched down west of Bonner Springs in Leavenworth County, Kan., around 3:30 p.m., said Lynn Maximuk, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Pleasant Hill, Mo.

It moved through Leavenworth and Wyandotte counties and into Platte and Clay counties in Missouri, leaving behind a path of destruction.

The tornado reached 500 yards across at its widest, Maximuk said.

At 6 p.m., it was still on the ground in Ray County, northeast of Kansas City, meteorologist Lisa Schmit said.

In Kansas, footage from television news helicopters showed homes torn down or damaged in Wyandotte County. There were also reports that a subdivision was flattened in Leavenworth.

Callers to radio stations reported seeing damage near Kansas Speedway and the Cabela's outdoor store in Kansas City, Kan., but neither the store nor the racetrack appeared to be damaged.

Flights stopped

At Kansas City International Airport, officials stopped all flights and evacuated the terminals. Passengers were ushered into underground tunnels leading to parking garages. After about 30 minutes, the passengers were allowed to leave and the airport was reopened.

The television footage also showed water spurting from what appeared to be a flattened industrial park south of Parkville, Mo., in Platte County.

All roads leading into Parkville were closed by emergency crews.

In nearby Riverside, debris littered an interstate highway and a storage facility appeared to have been ripped up and moved off its foundations.

In Missouri, the National Weather Service also issued tornado warnings for Jackson County in the Kansas City area and for Buchanan County in the St. Joseph area.

Warnings were also issued for Linn and Miami counties in Kansas and Cass County, Mo., south of the Kansas City metropolitan area; Bates County, Mo., east of Kansas City; and for Labette and Cherokee counties in southeast Kansas.

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