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Tornado slams Wichita, Kan.; 'uncontrolled chaos' reported

April 14, 2012|By Matt Pearce
  • A tornado touches down in Solomon, Kan., one of dozens of tornadoes to hit the Midwest on Saturday.
A tornado touches down in Solomon, Kan., one of dozens of tornadoes to hit… (Olin Wagner / Associated…)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A tornado hit Wichita on Saturday night as a series of storms tore through central Kansas.

The number of injuries and the extent of the damage could not be immediately confirmed, but local media reported that a trailer park had been hit by the tornado.

"Total destruction at trailer park south off 47th and Clifton," Wichita Eagle photographer Travis Heying (@travisheying) tweeted around 11 p.m., saying that he could hear voices in the rubble. He later tweeted photos at the Pinaire Mobile Home Park showing survivors walking through heavy damage, with one photo showing a man digging through the rubble: "This man shouted, 'Quiet! I hear a voice.'"

Over the emergency scanner, officials told each other that certain parts of the city were blocked off and that a command post needed to be set up before ambulances could reach certain locations.

Parrish Alleman, a reporter for KAKE-TV in Wichita, sent the following tweet from Oaklawn, a Wichita suburb: "Police on the scene in Oaklawn described it as 'uncontrolled chaos.' Downed power lines, gas leaks, paramedics can't get through to homes."

Early reports in the Wichita Business Journal said the southern and eastern parts of Wichita had been hit. Local media reported that a QuikTrip convenience store at Pawnee Street and Rock Road had been destroyed.

The storm appeared to approach from the southwest. Darkness had already fallen, and it was hard to see. But emergency officials reported seeing "flashes" in the southwest part of the city as power converters blew out.

"When it lights up, it looks like there's a funnel or a possible tornado in all that," said one official who could be heard on an emergency scanner. "It looks rain-wrapped," meaning a tornado whose funnel is hidden by rain.

"It's rain-wrapped," another emergency worker said shortly later. "You can't see it. But you can see the power flashes."

Local media reported that Spirit Aerosystems Inc., a Boeing airplane manufacturer, had also been hit, with reports of structural damage and that hazardous chemicals had leaked out. One picture circulating on Twitter showed a picture of a broken airplane fuselage.

Early Saturday the National Weather Service had issued strong warnings of "life-threatening" weather across a good portion of the country's midsection. Heavy storms are expected to continue passing through Kansas, Oklahoma and Nebraska throughout the night.


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