A line of severe thunderstorms accompanied by hail and tornadoes pounded communities across northeast Kansas Saturday evening, May 21st. Hardest hit was the community of Reading in Lyon County, where one person was killed, five reported injured, 20 plus homes destroyed (primarily in the town) and 200 structures damaged in and around the town.
Major General Lee Tafanelli, who's director of the Kansas Division of Emergency Management, is in Reading assessing the damage and has sent state resources to help the community.
“The state of Kansas is here to help the people of Reading and Lyon County officials as they make sure everyone is cared for and kept safe,” said Tafanelli. “We will provide whatever help we can to accomplish that goal and start the community on the road to recovery.”
Highway 170 is closed due to downed power lines and there is no power throughout the city. The community’s Volunteer Fire Station was damaged, as was a nearby barn.
A nine-person Incident Management Team is on site, as are the Southeast and Northeast Regional Coordinators for the Kansas Division of Emergency management. Preliminary and secondary searches have been made of the area and all citizens are currently accounted for.
Twelve Kansas Highway Patrol officers are on duty in Reading to man road blocks and support local law enforcement patrol efforts. KHP has also provided a helicopter and pilot for aerial search and rescue and recon support. Angee Morgan, deputy director of KDEM, is flying with the KHP helicopter to conduct an aerial damage assessment.
Damage assessments are ongoing on the ground, including assessments to critical infrastructure and essential facilities.
A shelter was briefly opened at the recreation center in Emporia, but was closed at approximately 4 a.m. Sunday, May 22. The community also used the school as a temporary shelter.
The Kansas Division of Emergency Management activated the State Emergency Operations Center in Topeka Saturday night, as reports of high winds and 14 tornado touchdowns came in from storm spotters in the region. The SEOC will remain staffed on a 24-hour basis.