“We had a lot of buildings in Andover that suffered very heavy damage,” Russell said, adding that some houses were “completely blown up”.
The tornado was rated EF-3 based on a preliminary damage assessment by the National Weather Service in Wichita. More details are likely to emerge once the study is complete, but an EF-3 rating would mean the twister’s winds would be between 136 and 265 mph.
Andover, a city of about 15,000 residents, is located about 14 miles east of Wichita, Kansas.
Resident Alaina Adkins told DailyExpertNews she was seeking shelter in her neighbor’s basement across the street from her apartment complex when the tornado swept by.
“I just couldn’t believe it. It just didn’t look real,” said the 26-year-old. “We stepped out our front door, and it came straight to our place,” she said.
The tornado missed her home just steps away, but power was cut in her neighborhood, Adkins added.
Videos and photos showed gutted houses, overturned cars and storm waste in streets and front yards.
In an early estimate, Wichita’s communications director Jim Jonas said between 50 and 100 buildings were damaged by the tornado.
14 tornadoes reported in Kansas or Nebraska
The National Weather Service in Wichita sent teams on Saturday to conduct damage surveys.
Russell said there were no additional reported injuries, no fatalities and no outstanding rescues in Andover.
“We will continue to work to get final assessments on all search and rescue issues, and that is our primary goal for this period of operation for today,” he said.
As cleanup work begins Saturday morning, Russell said, the primary goal is to get crews to the power lines across the road on Highway 54 in Andover. “They have a lot of work there. But if we can clear that road, we can open it,” the fire chief said.
Several tornadoes touched down in Kansas on Friday, according to Governor Laura Kelly, who declared a state of emergency.
“We’ve learned from past experience that we can’t wait for the storm to hit before responding,” Kelly said. “By taking these steps early, we can respond more quickly when the counties ask for help.”
A total of 15 tornadoes — 14 of them over Kansas or Nebraska — were reported Friday, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Storm Prediction Center. The other tornado was in Florida, the center said.
In addition, there are more than 70 reports of wind damage and more than 50 reports of hail.
In Enterprise, Kansas, there was hail up to four inches across.
A level 2 out of 5 risk for severe storms has been issued and includes Chicago, Indianapolis, St. Louis and Little Rock.
“Severe thunderstorms are possible, accompanied by a threat of wind damage and large hail on Saturday from the lower Mississippi Valley north to the western Great Lakes,” the Storm Prediction Center said. “A few tornadoes may also occur.”
Rebekah Riess, Paradise Afshar, Andy Rose, Taylor Ward, Allison Chinchar and Sharif Paget of DailyExpertNews contributed to this report.