ANDOVER, Kan. - Severe storms across Kansas produced softball-sized hail and several tornadoes Friday, leaving behind damage and thousands without power.
Several videos from Andover, Kansas, showed at least one of the tornadoes moving through areas populated with businesses and homes. Only minor injuries have been reported at this time.
"We know there was a direct tornado strike that started in Sedgwick County and traveled into Andover. We had many buildings in Andover take very tough damage. Total in the path there were 966 buildings, we believe," Andover Fire Chief Chad Russell said. "We do not have a damage assessment of how many of those were damaged."
As the sun began to rise Saturday, Russell said authorities found no additional injuries or reports of fatalities.
"I continue to be happy to report we have no rescues outstanding. We have no one that we know of that is trapped in a building right now waiting to rescue them," he said.
The Andover YMCA suffered "significant damage" damage during the storm, but because of actions taken by staff and members, no one was reported to be injured.
"It's devastating. I've never seen the aftermath of just something like this. I mean, there are cars flipped upside down, and it's just it's very sad. It's just going to take a while. I think we should focus on the people who were directly affected first and start rebuilding from there," said Rachel Schnitzler, who attended the YMCA.
The area was under an increased risk of seeing severe weather, and Tornado Watches were in effect at the time the storms developed.
The state, situated in the heart of Tornado Alley -- has experienced just one tornado of EF-2 strength or higher in the past three years. The tornado that touched down on March 13, 2021, in Haggard rated EF-2 and that's been it, until now, possibly. There were a total of 11 tornado reports in Kansas on Friday, according to NOAA's Storm Prediction Center.
Emergency management officials and local law enforcement advised residents to avoid traveling through Andover, while the agencies accessed the damage.
In nearby Sedgwick County, officials activated their emergency operations center to access and respond to the damage. PowerOutage.US reported more than 24,000 outages across the state Friday evening.
Kansas Governor Laura Kelly declared a State of Disaster Emergency for the hardest hit areas.
"We have learned from past experience that we can't wait for the storm to hit before we respond," Gov. Kelly said in statement. "By taking these steps early we are able to more quickly react when the counties ask for assistance."
In addition to the tornadoes, large hail was reported in several towns across the Plains. Photos and storm spotters reported hail the size of softballs near Holbrook, Nebraska and Enterprise, Kansas.
National Weather Service meteorologists will likely survey damaged areas in the days ahead to determine how many tornadoes formed and their strength.
The threat of severe weather threat is expected to continue into Saturday, with additional lines of storms developing during the afternoon and evening in parts of the Midwest and the Plains.