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Significant damage reported after possible tornado activity in Kansas

Dozens of structures were damaged after possible tornadoes touched down in the Wichita, Kansas, area Friday evening, officials said.

Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple said after speaking with the city manager that around 50 to 100 buildings in the region were damaged.

Andover Fire Chief Chad Russell told reporters that 966 structures in the city were in the storm’s path.

“We had many buildings in Andover take very strong damage,” Russell said. “… Some of our neighborhoods damaged badly enough that the houses were completely blown down.”

A tornado appears to form near Wichita, Kansas on Friday.Jett Rossi/@gingyrossi31 via Twitter

A damage assessment had not been completed late Friday and it was not immediately clear how many of the buildings were damaged, but city hall had sustained some damage.

The Greater Wichita YMCA said in a statement that the YMCA of Andover, to the east of the city, sustained “significant damage.”

“We are thankful that all of the staff and members that took shelter at the branch at the time of the storm, were not injured,” the YMCA said.

The path of one possible tornado appeared to stretch from Sedgwick County into Butler County, where Andover is located, Russell said.

The National Weather Service said it would be sending teams out Saturday morning to conduct damage surveys to confirm the tornadoes.

Russell said officials believed no rescues were outstanding, but additional assessments were being conducted.

Scott Stueven, Butler County EMS deputy chief, said they received five requests for EMS patients, including two firefighters. One was hospitalized and both were in “good shape,” he said.

Most reports of injuries have been for minor cuts, scratches and fall victims, he said, with no critical injuries.

In Sedgwick County, three injuries were reported, including one that was serious, said Kevin Lanterman, interim director for Sedgwick County EMS. No additional details were provided.

Andover police said most of the city’s major intersections were blocked by debris or downed utility lines.

More than 22,000 utility customers in Kansas were without electricity following the storm, according to PowerOutage.us.

Sedgwick County Emergency Management Director Julie Stimson said by email that authorities were still assessing damage. She told NBC affiliate KSN of Wichita that county workers are going to door-to-door to check on residents.

“We have power outages,” she said. “There is damage. We do not need onlookers at this time.”

Kansas Governor Laura Kelly urged residents to remain alert as severe weather moved across the state Friday night.

“We are monitoring the storm system closely, and I’ve activated our disaster response and recovery plan,” she tweeted.

Officials in Sedgwick County declared an emergency as they activated its emergency operations center, according to a statement. The declaration will help the county obtain state aid, officials said.

Sedgwick County Emergency Management Director Julie Stimson said by email that authorities were still assessing damage. She told NBC affiliate KSN of Wichita that county workers are going to door-to-door to check on residents.

“We have power outages,” she said. “There is damage. We do not need onlookers at this time.”

The National Weather Service blamed a strong storm system in the center of the Lower 48 that was drawing precipitation from the Gulf of Mexico while producing strong wind shear.

“There will be the potential for significant tornadoes, destructive wind gusts and very large hail with a focus over southeastern Nebraska into eastern Kansas,” the service said in a forecast discussion Friday.

The National Weather Service warned of thunderstorms in Nebraska and Kansas that could fuel tornadoes as strong as EF 2, which defines twisters with winds of 113 to 157 mph.

The storms Friday “have potential to produce very large hail, damaging winds, and tornadoes, some of which could be strong,” the office stated.

Joe Studley and Janhvi Bhojwani contributed.

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