Flooding along the Verdigris River (Photo courtesy of the Kansas Wing, Civil Air Patrol)

19-037 Update: Multiple tornadoes strike state; seven counties added to disaster declaration

Douglas, Ellsworth, Harper, Leavenworth, Phillips, Russell and Washington Counties have been added to the state disaster proclamation signed by Gov. Laura Kelly, bringing the total to 56 counties.

Other counties in the declaration are Allen, Anderson, Barber, Barton, Butler, Chase, Chautauqua, Cherokee, Clark, Clay, Cloud, Coffey, Comanche, Cowley, Crawford, Dickinson, Doniphan, Elk, Franklin, Geary, Greenwood, Harvey, Hodgeman, Jefferson, Kingman, Lincoln, Linn, Lyon, Marion, Marshall, McPherson, Meade, Montgomery, Morris, Neosho, Osage, Ottawa, Pawnee, Pottawatomie, Pratt, Reno, Rice, Riley, Rush, Saline, Sumner, Wabaunsee, Wilson, and Woodson.

Nine tornadoes were reported in the state last night. A destructive tornado, reported to be a mile wide, struck southeast Lawrence along US-59. Major damages were also reported in Linwood and Pleasant Grove. Other tornadoes were reported in Beloit, Bonner Springs, Collier, Eudora, Russell, and Tipton.

“My thoughts are with all Kansans impacted by the destructive tornadoes across our state last night,” Kelly said. “We will be working closely with your local emergency management personnel to get you the resources and support you need.”

Search and rescue operations occurred throughout the night and damage assessments within the affected communities are on-going.

Kansas National Guard assets were staged in Lawrence to assist local authorities and State Task Force 2 deployed to Lawrence to assist fire and rescue teams. The Kansas Wing of the Civil Air Patrol is conducting aerial reconnaissance flights.

“Kansas is experiencing a historic month of extreme weather, from tornadoes to heavy rain and flooding to severe thunderstorms,” said Kelly. “This is challenging for our emergency personnel and local officials across the state. I want to sincerely thank all of our local, state, federal partners and voluntary organizations who are working very hard, long hours to keep people safe, assist communities and give neighbors a place to shelter. The State of Kansas is grateful.”

While forecasts indicate the state will receive a short respite from severe weather, Kansas state agencies continue their response to heavy rains, tornadoes and flooding that have affected the state over the past week.

Water levels at several U.S. Army Corps of Engineer reservoirs are being closely monitored, including Tuttle Creek, Perry Lake, Toronto Lake, Fall River Lake, and John Redmond Reservoir, among others. Perry Lake began releasing water Sunday, May 26, and is maintaining 5,000 cubic feet per second release. Toronto Reservoir is releasing water at 6,5011 cfs. Tuttle Creek will begin releasing water later today.

The levees along the Verdigris River near Coffeyville continue to be monitored by local emergency management officials.

The Kansas National Guard deployed a Mobile Emergency Operations Center along with personnel to support county emergency operations. This includes prepositioned high wheeled vehicles and personnel at designated positions throughout the affected areas. Airmen from the Kansas National Guard’s 184th Intelligence Wing’s Unclassified Processing Assessment and Dissemination continue to support KDEM with geospatial imagery.

The American Red Cross has been on the ground assisting those affected by flooding and tornados in Kansas. An American Red Cross national resources shelter trailer from the Red Cross regional warehouse in St. Louis, Missouri, is staged in Topeka to distribute sheltering supplies Red Cross shelters, as needed. Two shelters are currently opened: Douglas County (Douglas County Fairgrounds Building 21, 2120 Harper Street, Lawrence) and Montgomery County (First Southern Baptist Church, 300 W. 9th Street, Coffeyville. Both shelters are pet-friendly.

Five other shelters are on standby in Dickinson, Jefferson, Neosho, and Saline Counties. Pet shelters are operational in Montgomery and Douglas Counties. The Kansas State Animal Response Team is supporting pet shelter needs, as requested.

“As Kansans, we must look out for each other during this difficult time,” said Kelly. “We must do what we can to assist our friends and neighbors impacted by these devastating storms. Consider donating to or volunteering with the American Red Cross helping in the areas.”

Those in the area of a disaster can let their loved ones know of their well-being by registering on the Safe and Well website (safeandwell.org). They can also call 1-800-REDCROSS to register themselves and their family

Those wishing to help can do so by donating time, money and blood. Information on helping with disaster relief can be found on the American Red Cross website at redcross.org. Select “Volunteer” to apply to be a volunteer.

To donate blood, visit redcrossblood.org to find a drive near you or make an appointment to give. Several blood donations have been canceled in the area due to the weather.

The best way to give support during and after a disaster is to make a financial donation to voluntary organizations providing assistance. To learn more about volunteer opportunities or to obtain other disaster information, please call United Way 2-1-1.

Flooding continues to affect roadways across Kansas. For continuously-updated road condition information, go to www.KanDrive.org. Flooding information is shown on the construction map so that all highway closures can be seen at once. Other construction information, camera views, weather websites and travel details are also available. You can also call 511.

The State Emergency Operations Center in Topeka was activated May 20 and will remain activated to monitor weather conditions across the state and respond to requests for assistance.

State and federal agencies that have reported to the SEOC include the Kansas Division of Emergency Management; Kansas National Guard; Civil Air Patrol; Office of the State Fire Marshal; Kansas Highway Patrol; Kansas Department of Health and Environment; Department for Children and Families; Kansas Department of Transportation; Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism; Kansas Water Office; National Weather Service, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Environmental Protection Agency, and FEMA. Other partners in the SEOC are the American Red Cross, Kansas Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, Salvation Army, and support from Ohio, Maryland, North Carolina and Tennessee through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact.