Homes damaged but small town spared after Kansas tornado
A large tornado damaged or destroyed as many as 25 homes in a rural area of northern Kansas and came within a mile of hitting a small town, officials said.
There were no immediate reports of injuries or fatalities from the tornado that the National Weather Service said was on the ground for about an hour and a half Wednesday night.
Trooper Ben Gardner, a spokesman for the Kansas Highway Patrol, said early Thursday that emergency crews were assessing homes in the hardest-hit part of Dickinson County to ensure no one was trapped or in need of help.
A statement from authorities at a unified response center estimated that 15 to 25 homes were substantially damaged or totally destroyed. The Red Cross set up an emergency shelter for displaced families.
The tornado formed just after 7 p.m. near the Ottawa County community of Niles and stayed on the ground continuously until around 8:35 p.m. when it dissipated, National Weather Service meteorologist Chad Omitt said. Estimates are that it was a quarter- to a half-mile wide at times, he said.
The weather service urged people to take cover as the tornado it called "catastrophic" approached Chapman, about 75 miles west of Topeka.
Omitt said "the heart" of the tornado at one point was just about a mile south of Chapman, a town of about 1,400 that was devastated by a deadly tornado in 2008 but spared on Wednesday.
The twister that hit June 11, 2008, tore a path of destruction six blocks wide through the town. Officials said one woman died, 100 homes were destroyed or heavily damaged, and 80 percent of the town had at least minor damage.
Most of Wednesday's damage was in a rural area between Chapman and the town of Abilene, Gardner said.
The storms were the latest in a busy severe weather week for the Great Plains.
On Tuesday, tornadoes in western Kansas injured at least two people, and one person drowned in central Oklahoma amid heavy rain. In Arkansas, a 13-year-old boy was found safe three hours after falling into a flooded drainage pipe.
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