Tornadoes strike La Crosse and Russell

Numerous tornadoes – some of them massive wedges – pounded north-central Kansas Friday night, injuring at least one person.

Russell and La Crosse both sustained damage from tornadoes, and a woman in Russell was hurt.

“We’re just trying to assess the damage,” La Crosse Chief of Police Jason Reece said.

The damage is largely confined to an area along 5th Street in the southern third of the city, Reece said. It’s the only street in the town of 1,342 that has a stop light. La Crosse, the Rush County seat, is about 25 miles south of Hays and I-70.

No injuries have been reported in town yet, Reece said. The town has been shut down to through traffic.

A large tornado approaches La Crosse Friday night. Photo by Jim Reed

Businesses along 5th Street are “a total loss,” he said, and two or three mobile homes have also been destroyed.

The Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., has logged 30 reports of tornadoes in Kansas, many of them in Rush County. But others were reported in the neighboring counties of Ellis, Ness and Russell.

In Russell, a woman suffered minor injuries. Russell County Emergency Management told KSN-TV that one house was destroyed and a few others were damaged.

La Crosse resident Mary Urban tried to get to the hospital where she works but was turned back by both law enforcement officials and the storm damage.

“It’s crazy,” Urban said of the damage. “The car wash is gone. The old lumber yard, it got messed up.”

A grocery store also sustained damage, she said.

There were so many reports of tornadoes near La Crosse over the course of the evening, she said, “it felt like we were surrounded.”

Two minutes after the above photo was taken, power flashes light up the sky as a tornado strikes La Crosse, Kan., Friday night. Photo by Jim Reed

Urban lives five blocks north of 5th Street, and she remembers hearing a noisy rumble for a few minutes even from the shelter of the basement.

“It just got really loud,” she said. “That must have been the tornado.”

Her mother died on this date more than half a century ago, she said, and she graduated from high school on the same date 10 years later.

Now she’ll remember May 25 for something else.