Tornadoes hit Kansas, Oklahoma and Iowa as storms sweep through Midwest

Published May 19, 2013

A severe storm system that is sweeping through the Midwest has generated tornadoes in Kansas, Oklahoma and Iowa and has left at least one person dead in Shawnee, Okla.

Dozen of counties in Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Missouri have been placed under tornado watches and warnings.

A tornado grazed the Oklahoma City suburb of Edmond Sunday afternoon, dropping hail as large as grapefruit and damaging roofs and structures before heading east. Aerial flyovers in Wellston, northeast of Oklahoma City, showed significant property damage. Major damage was also seen at a mobile home park in Shawnee, Okla, where a search and rescue effort is underway.

A storm spotter told the National Weather Service that the tornado "scoured" the landscape in the park and an area along Interstate 40. The highway has been closed because of overturned tractor-trailers that now litter the road.

"I knew it was coming," said Edmond resident Randy Grau, who huddled with his wife and two young boys in their Edmond's home's safe room when the tornado hit. He said he peered out his window as the weather worsened and believed he saw a flock of birds heading down the street.

"Then I realized it was swirling debris," Grau said. "That's when we shut the door of the safe room.

"I probably had them in there for 10 minutes."

In Katie Leathers' backyard, the family's trampoline was tossed through a section of fence and a giant tree uprooted.

"I saw all the trees waving, and that's when I grabbed everyone and got into two closets," Leathers said. "All these trees just snapped."

In Kansas, an "violent and extremely dangerous tornado" was spotted in the southwest side of Wichita near the Mid-Continent Airport, according to the National Weather Service.

Carl Brewer, the mayor of Wichita, told Fox News that the city was hit harder by high winds and golf ball sized hail than anything from the tornado.

"That alone, and the rain, actually just really did a number on the city," he said. "It was so bad you think a tornado came through."

Brewer said hail ripped through the sides of houses in Wichita, in addition to breaking windows and damaging cars.

But Randy Duncan, Wichita's emergency management director, told Fox News that he has not yet heard of any local reports of injuries of deaths stemming from the storm.

In Iowa, a tornado touched down 30 miles west of Des Moines, the National Weather Service said, according to the Des Moines Register.

More severe storms are also in the forecast in Oklahoma a day after large hail fell in the state's southwest and electricity was knocked out to thousands.

The Storm Prediction Center said Sunday there was a moderate risk of severe thunderstorms forming Sunday evening.

“The overall environment appears quite favorable for tornadoes,” the SPC outlook stated, according to the Kansas City Star.

The center says the greatest risk for storms in Oklahoma is in the far north, around the Bartlesville area. Overall, the cities included in the area of moderate risk are Kansas City, Wichita, Oklahoma City and Tulsa.

In Enid on Saturday, a police officer was injured in high winds when his cruiser was struck by an object. Area emergency manager Mike Honigsberg told The Oklahoman that the car may have been hit by a cattle trough lifted by the wind. In Oklahoma City, an officer was trapped for a time when surrounded by fallen utility lines.