Storms pound KS again

A tornado, powerful straight line winds, heavy rain, severe flooding and several inches of hail caused extensive property damage in Seward County in southwestern Kansas Thursday night.

BY TRAVIS DUNN | LIBERAL, Kan. | May 16, 2003



"The hail was so deep in some places it was drifting."

—Ed Young


A tornado, powerful straight line winds, heavy rain, severe flooding and several inches of hail caused extensive property damage in Seward County in southwestern Kansas Thursday night.

One injury was reported a pregnant woman who was jarred into labor, according to Ed Young, Seward County administrator.

Northwestern Liberal was hit by a confirmed tornado at about 7:35 p.m. Thursday. Between 200 and 300 homes were damaged, and part of the courthouse roof in Liberal was torn off. Liberal is home to some 19,000 people.

In the town of Kismet, home to some 650 people, Young said the north side of every building lost windows. Three roads west of Kismet were flooded with about two feet of water, according to the National Weather Service (NWS) in Dodge City, Kan., and several roads near Liberal were also closed.

"Those are the only two towns in our county," Young said.

Young said that hail fell for 45 minutes in parts of eastern Seward County, leaving up to four inches of accumulation.

"The hail was so deep in some places it was drifting," he said. "It was a real interesting storm."

The storm came in three waves, according to Young, and lasted about four hours. Unconfirmed reports said that as much as 16 inches of rain fell in some parts of the county as much rain as that part of Kansas receives in an entire year, Young said.

"The flash flooding has done probably as much damage as the tornado and the straight line winds," Young said.

Between two and three thousand acres of wheat in the eastern part of the county were ruined by the storm, said Rodney Wallace, Seward County agricultural extension agent.

"There are some wheat fields out there that are pretty much mowed down," Wallace said. Several corn fields would likely have to be replanted, he said, but he had no estimate on the overall economic impact.

The complete extent of the damage was not yet known Friday. Both county and state emergency management officials, as well as investigators from the National Weather Service, were not able to complete assessment because of road closings and poor flying conditions.

"We haven't been able to put anybody up in the air," Young said.

"Obviously driving would not be recommend," added Ed Berry, NWS meteorologist in Dodge City.

Minor damage was also reported in Oklahoma, where several tornadoes touched down.

Church World Service regional representatives were monitoring the situation.


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