WICHITA, Kansas — A tornado that moved through parts of Kansas destroyed or damaged hundreds of homes and buildings, injured several people and left more than 15,000 people without power, officials said Saturday.
Nicholas Nair, 20, of Denton, Texas; Gavin Short, 19, of Grayslake, Ill.; and Drake Brooks, 22, of Evansville, Indiana, died in the crash shortly before 11:30 p.m. Friday, according to an Oklahoma Highway Patrol report.
The three were in a vehicle driven by Nair southbound on Interstate 35 when the vehicle hydroplaned and was struck by a semi-trailer truck in Tonkawa, about 85 miles (137 kilometers) north of Oklahoma City , according to the report.
A statement released by OU said: ‘The university is devastated to learn of the tragic deaths of three students. Each was a valued and loved member of our community. »
More than 1,000 buildings were affected when a strong tornado swept through Andover on Friday evening, authorities said. On Saturday, emergency teams found a more extensive path of destruction than previously estimated.
“We now know that our damage path extended approximately 3 1/2 to 4 miles (5.6 to 6.4 kilometers) north of where we thought it ended last night Andover Deputy Fire Chief Mike Roosevelt said during a briefing.
There were no reported fatalities or serious injuries from the tornado itself, despite the widespread destruction. Officials said only a few injuries were reported. In Sedgwick County, three people were injured, including a seriously injured woman.
Search and rescue operations continued Saturday with more than 200 emergency responders from 30 agencies. Officials kept the volunteers away from the damage until a secondary search for the debris was carried out.
Andover Fire Chief Chad Russell said earlier that some homes in the neighborhood “were completely destroyed.”
There are homes completely destroyed and entire neighborhoods wiped out, Russell said.
City Hall, the Andover YMCA and Prairie Creek Elementary School were among the heavily damaged buildings.
National Weather Service field crews worked Saturday to determine the extent and strength of the tornado, meteorologist Kevin Darmofal said at the Wichita office.
Flor and Aldo Delgado said they prayed in the basement of their Andover home as a tornado passed directly overhead, destroying their home and cars.
The couple looked out the window on Friday night and saw the tornado begin to form, so they headed for the basement.
“The lights started flickering and eventually went out, and within a minute the whole house started shaking and it was so loud. We started to feel the water hitting our faces, and there was just dust everywhere. It lasted what felt like a minute he was right on top of us,” Aldo Delgado said.
Flor Delgado said she could hear their house being torn apart as they prayed for their safety, the Wichita Eagle reported.
“At the time, I realized there was absolutely nothing we could do. I knew my husband felt it too because he was calm and comforting me, but at some point he started losing his mind and crying. I could hear his voice crack as he prayed,” she said.
After the tornado passed, the couple emerged from the rubble with only the clothes on their backs. Their home, cars and personal items are gone.
“We didn’t even have our wedding rings back then,” added Flor Delgado.
Governor Laura Kelly has declared a state of disaster emergency for the hardest hit areas. The statement makes state resources available to assist local jurisdictions in their response and recovery efforts in affected areas statewide.
Evergy said about 15,000 customers lost power during the tornado and work continued to restore power. All broken gas and water lines were shut off and at noon there were no known active leaks.
In addition to the tornadoes, large hail was reported in several Plains towns. Hail the size of softballs has been spotted near Holbrook, Nebraska, and Enterprise, Kansas, according to the National Weather Service and storm watchers.