Ferocious tornado strikes Andover, Kansas, causing severe damage

WEATHER NEWS: Ferocious tornado strikes Andover, Kansas, causing severe damage

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An outbreak of severe storms swept through the eastern half of Kansas and Nebraska Friday, unleashing tornadoes, destructive wind gusts and massive hail in both states.

A major tornado developed just before sunset in the eastern Wichita suburbs before entering the city of Andover, where it caused substantial damage. There were no immediate reports of injuries, but many homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed.

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly (D) declared a state of emergency in the storm’s aftermath.

Social media footage of the twister showed a fast-moving, violent tempest shredding across Andover like a buzz saw. Among the heavily damaged structures was a YMCA where cars where flung into the building, which partially collapsed.

“The Andover YMCA suffered significant damage as a result of the storm that hit the Andover area this evening,” the YMCA in Wichita wrote on its Facebook page. “We are thankful that all of the staff and members that took shelter at the branch at the time of the storm, were not injured.”

The Wichita Eagle reported a dozen homes were destroyed in a nearby subdivision.

The Andover tornado was among 14 reports of twisters in the Plains received by the National Weather Service Friday evening, 11 of them from Kansas and three from Nebraska.

How the Andover tornado developed

As a cold front approached, a rotating thunderstorm or supercell formed over Wichita. The isolated cell evolved from a bubbling sub-severe storm to dropping a tornado in about 30 minutes.

As it passed through Andover, about 10 miles to the east, the tornado hurled debris as high as 21,000 feet. Early analysis suggests the Andover tornado might rate at least EF3 on a 0 to 5 scale for tornado intensity.

Additional storms passed the area as the cold front moved through, complicating initial response efforts.

The first tornado warning was issued on the Andover storm at 8:10 p.m. Central time. At 8:13 p.m. a confirmed tornado was being tracked near the city. It continued northeast toward El Dorado, where a tornado was reported southwest of the town at 8:51 p.m.

The same storm went on to produce additional tornadoes to the east of El Dorado, where a “a confirmed large and extremely dangerous tornado” prompted a particularly dangerous situation warning. At 9:32 p.m. the large tornado was 15 miles west of Eureka and being overtaken by a line of storms to the west, eventually diminishing the tornado threat.

The storm tore through Andover about 31 years after an even more devastating tornado. On April 26, 1991, an F5 twister, the highest rating possible, roared through parts of the city, killing 17 and injuring 225. It was part of an outbreak that dropped 55 tornadoes across the Plains. One of the most viewed tornado videos of the time came from McConnell Air Force Base as it passed.

Additional storms that formed earlier in the day to the north, especially near the Kansas and Nebraska border, also caused several tornadoes. For the most part they seem to have been quick-hitting and weak, causing little impact.

Several reports of wind gusts as high as 80 to 90 mph were tallied by the Weather Service. A four-inch hail report came in from northeast Kansas with the first round of storms.

The potential for major hail to the south into Oklahoma was thwarted by a layer of warm air aloft called a cap. A cap tends to prevent storms from forming but, when it breaks, storms can erupt and quickly become violent; such was the case in Andover.

Jason Samenow contributed to this report.

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