Tornadoes rake parts of Kan., Okla.

May 24, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Authorities checking on a car stranded in a field Saturday morning found two people killed by a powerful storm that raked the state a day earlier with at least 17 tornadoes. The Friday storm destroyed several buildings and injured at least six people, including one hospitalized in serious condition in Wichita, authorities said.

Several tornadoes touched down Saturday in northwestern Oklahoma. A twister destroyed three barns at a hog farm near Lacey in Kingfisher County, about 75 miles northwest of Oklahoma City, said Michelann Ooten, a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Emergency Management Department.

No one at the farm was injured, and there were no immediate reports of injuries elsewhere - although the storm continued to pose a threat.

Ooten said the hog farm was considered a complete loss and damage also was reported to a grain elevator on State Highway 132 in far northwestern Kingfisher County.

Kingfisher County Sheriff's dispatcher Lonnie McDade said the only damage he knew of in that county was to the hog farm, along with some downed power lines.

"It's all been out mostly in the countryside," McDade said. "But that farm happened to be in the path and took a direct hit."

Several other tornadoes touched down in nearby counties. Many were caught on television and appeared to dissipate within moments of touching down.

The National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for several counties. A warning was issued before the earlier twisters.

The car the man and woman found dead Saturday were in was blown 150 yards off the highway they were on into a field about 13 miles east of Pratt, the Pratt County Sheriff's Office said. Gary S. Whitlow, 33, and Kimberly S. Whitlow, 29, were pronounced dead at the scene.

Their the car, barely visible from the road, was destroyed by a twister that also swept a semi-truck off the highway and knocked down power poles and lines across the road.

A Kansas Highway Patrol aircraft flew along the path of the tornado on Saturday to make sure there were no other victims.

In Colorado, hundreds of residents were allowed to return to their homes in the farming town of Windsor, which was ravaged by a large tornado on Thursday. Parts of the town had been cordoned off because of natural gas leaks.

"Our house is not too bad," said Courtney Schinner. "Our roof is gone, a lot of windows are blown out, but the interior is OK.

"We got really lucky compared to a lot of people," she said as she gathered her valuables and prepared to move into a hotel while her apartment is repaired.

Officials met with residents to advise them of the dangers still in the area from exposed electrical wires, severed gas lines, nails, broken boards and other debris still littering the area.

"There may be some damage, and with no power it may be an unpleasant place to live, but it's up to the homeowners," incident management team spokesman Dan Hatlestad said.

There were 596 homes damaged, with 102 deemed unsafe to occupy, when the tornado with wind speeds between 111 mph to 165 mph tore through a 35-mile stretch of northern Colorado, killing one person and injuring dozens. It tipped 15 rail cars off the tracks in Windsor, about 70 miles north of Denver.

In Kansas, National Weather Service survey teams toured the area Saturday to determine the size of the twisters. Ed Berry, science operations officer in the Dodge City office, said many of the twisters appear to have been significant in size.

In Stafford County, at least five people were injured and seven homes suffered major damage, along with damage to several other structures, power lines and trees, said Sharon Watson, a spokeswoman for the Kansas Adjutant General's Department.

Two tornadoes touched down Friday in Gove County, with at least a dozen homes sustaining major damage, said George Lies, emergency management director for Logan and Gove counties.

A man also suffered minor injuries after a tornado picked up his car and blew it across Interstate 70 into a ditch, Lies said.

A twister touched down south of Quinter, went back into the clouds as it went over the town, then dropped back down on the other side, damaging four homes.

Parts of Kansas also have been hit hard by flooding, with as much as 8 inches of rain falling in a 48-hour period, said Chris Foltz, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Goodland.

About 100 people have died in U.S. twisters so far this year, the worst toll in a decade, according to the weather service, and the danger has not passed yet. Tornado season typically peaks in the spring and early summer, then again in the late fall.

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Associated Press writer Ivan Moreno in Denver and Jeff Latzke in Oklahoma City contributed to this report


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