Gov. Kathleen Sebelius signed a State of Disaster Emergency declaration Wednesday for 62 Kansas counties impacted by the severe thunderstorms, hail, lightning, tornadoes, high winds and flooding that begin May 22 and is continuing.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with those impacted by these storms," Governor Sebelius said. "Kansas weather can be dangerous and we appreciate the first responders, emergency management and community partners who help with preparedness, response and recovery."
The following counties are named in the declaration: Barber, Barton, Cheyenne, Clark, Cloud, Comanche, Decatur, Edwards, Ellis, Ellsworth, Finney, Ford, Gove, Graham, Grant, Gray, Greeley, Hamilton, Harper, Harvey, Haskell, Hodgeman, Jewell, Kearney, Kingman, Kiowa, Lane, Lincoln, Logan, McPherson, Meade, Mitchell, Morton, Ness, Norton, Osborne, Ottawa, Pawnee, Phillips, Pratt, Rawlins, Reno, Republic, Rice, Rooks, Rush, Russell, Saline, Scott, Seward, Sheridan, Sherman, Smith, Sedgwick, Stafford, Stanton, Stevens, Sumner, Thomas, Trego, Wallace and Wichita.
All counties in a line from Republic County on south to Sumner County and to the west of that line are included in the declaration.
The declaration activates the disaster response and recovery portions of the Kansas Response Plan. It also notes that the disaster period is ongoing and federal assistance may be requested.
Gary and Kimberly Whitlow of Rocky Ford, Colo., were found in a car in a field 13 miles east of Pratt on Saturday, May 24. Their car was picked up by a tornado on Friday evening and thrown into a wheat field approximately 150 yards north of a rest area on U.S. Highway 54.
A third death has been attributed to the storm system. An investigation is being conducted into a fourth death that may be storm-related.
Osage County sheriff's officers were called to Osage County Lake on Saturday, May 24, where they found four people with possible lightning-related injuries. They were transported to Overland Park Regional Medical Center where one victim, Nathan Eugene Sullivan, 20, died of his injuries. An autopsy by the Shawnee County coroner confirmed lightning as the cause of death. The other three had injuries described as non-life threatening.
In Reno County, a 28-year-old man was killed in a one-car accident on a flooded roadway. The Reno County Sheriff's office is investigating to determine if the accident was caused by the flooding.
"This storm system is another reminder of how quickly dangerous weather approaches in Kansas, and of the importance of having a weather alert radio and listening to local weather broadcasts as you travel to ensure you have time to get to a safe place," said Maj. Gen. Tod Bunting, director of Kansas Division of Emergency Management and adjutant general. "Our thoughts continue to be with the families affected, and we are assisting the counties in determining damages to infrastructure."
Tentative damage estimates related to the storm have been placed in excess of $8 million for all affected areas. Exact figures are unknown in most areas due to the continuing nature of the storm system and the inability to go into the field in many counties because of ongoing flooding and road damage.
Most damages appear to be to public infrastructure. Damages to private property will likely not reach the threshold to qualify residents for Individual Assistance.
Midwest Energy alone has damage estimates of approximately $5.25 million in 10 counties where it operates. In Gove County, Western Electric County Rural Electric Cooperative has approximately $225,000 in damages and Ninnescah REC has approximately $4 million in damages in Pratt County.
Decatur County officials estimate approximately $2.5 million damages to private property; it is unknown how much of that is uninsured. They are still assessing damage to roads and other infrastructure.
Norton County officials report approximately $500,000 in damages to roads and an unknown value on private property damages.
Phillips County has a preliminary damage estimate of approximately $500,000 due to washed out and flooded roads.
Officials in Smith County estimate approximately $1 million in damages to public infrastructure.
In Sheridan County some communication systems repeaters are out of commission due to possible lightning strikes. Four homes were listed as destroyed, four sustained major damage and one had minor damage.
Gove County officials say that there is approximately $4 million in damages to private property, including 12 to 13 homes damaged by tornadoes. It is unknown how much of that is insured.
Ellis County reports damages to a number of public roads, a high school, water tower and a fire station. Two homes were destroyed and 25 others sustained minor damage.
One home was reported damaged in Ness County.
In Barton County, four to five power poles were knocked down, as well as some pasture fencing. One home slid off its foundations. No road or bridge damage was reported.
Pawnee County officials estimate there is approximately $25,000 in damages to roads. Some minor flooding was reported by homeowners.
Pratt County officials say there were some minor damages to roads and damage to five to eight homes all of which were insured.
Comanche County reports one business destroyed and 45 homes damaged; most of those had roof damage. Other damages include some farm buildings, sheds and irrigation systems.
A rural electric cooperative in Reno County reported some minor damage and one township was in need of debris removal.
An apartment house was damaged in Sedgwick County and there was some minor flooding reported.
In Coffey County, high straight line winds damaged some grain bins in the Lebo area.