A powerful and deadly storm system pummeled the Golden Belt Tuesday afternoon and evening with high winds, heavy rains, large hail and a possible tornado. The Kansas Adjutant General’s Department confirmed storms claimed the lives of two people about 5:10 p.m.in Stafford County.
Initial reports by the Kansas Highway Patrol confirm two people died as a tree propelled by high winds hit their van on U.S. 281 at mile marker 96 in Stafford County, just south of the Barton County line. As of Tuesday night, the highway remained shut down due to storm damage, according to KHP.
Jeff Parr, Stafford County sheriff, identfied the victims of Linda Gleason, 56; and her son Jeffrey Gleason, 17, of St. John. Kristin Gleason, 21, sustained injuries and is hospitalized at Great bend. She is a senior at Kansas State University majoring in secondary education.
Lightning and lights from the emergency vehicles flashed in the pouring rain as safety personnel worked the scene. Large tree limbs cluttered the roadway and at least one downed power line touched the ground.
Stafford and Barton County had damage to homes, and downed power lines and trees.
Barton County Sheriff Greg Armstrong said there was at least one report of a possible tornado touching down one mile west and three miles north of Ellinwood, where a house and several out buildings were leveled.
There was also one minor injury in that area. The person who was hurt claimed the damage was done by a twister.
Elsewhere, the sheriff said there was a roof damaged and flooding on U.S. 281 at Hoisington, a roof blown off on South Main Street in Great Bend, some flooding on K-4 in Claflin and a shed blown down two miles southeast of Albert.
Barton County officials have issued a local disaster declaration. There were numerous reports of power outages and wind damage in several Central Kansas counties.
There were also reports of the electricity being out for well over an hour in portions of Barton County. Armstrong said there were power poles and lines down all over the county.
The Great Bend Fire Department reported an apartment complex was hit with lightning at about 5 p.m. and caught fire in southwest Great Bend at Paradise and Bermuda lanes. There were no injuries, but two apartments had smoke and water damage, and the fire was contained to the apartment of origin.
Ellinwood Police Chief Art Keffer said his community experienced some localized flooding and had some downed trees. But, there was not other damaged reported as of presstime.
Tornado warnings were issued for Barton, Rush, Stafford and Pawnee counties. Moderate to severe storm damage was reported north of St. John.
Winds were reported at 75 mph six miles west of Claflin, 70 miles at Pawnee Rock and Hoisington.
Hail measured at 4.25 inches was reported nine miles southeast of Beeler. Hail measured at 2.75 inches was reported five miles west of St. John in Stafford County, and in Ness and Rush counties.