Twisters, Strong Winds Sweep Through Kansas

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At least seven tornadoes (search) swept across Kansas Thursday night, and one ripped roofs off homes and apartment buildings in this college town.

Tornadoes also damaged homes and buildings and uprooted trees in several other counties, but there were no immediate reports of any deaths, and just a few injuries.

Two people were admitted to Allen County Hospital in Iola after being hit by debris from a tornado that passed through neighboring Woodson County. June Reynolds, the acting hospital administrator, said neither was seriously injured.

Six other people were treated for minor injuries, Reynolds said.

Three people were taken to a hospital in Garnett after a tornado hit Anderson County, in far eastern Kansas, the sheriff's department said. Their conditions were not immediately available.

Fifteen counties had confirmed tornado sightings, said Joy Moser, a spokeswoman for the Kansas Division of Emergency (search) management. An initial assessment conducted by the National Weather Service (search) concluded there were at least seven tornadoes, said meteorologist Mike Akulow.

Bob Newton, a duty officer with Douglas County Emergency Management (search), said no one was seriously injured in Lawrence, home of the University of Kansas. One person was injured after stepping on debris while looking at damage.

Authorities said at least 40 structures suffered significant damage and were not livable. Newton credited advance notice -- and heightened awareness after a series of killer tornadoes hit Kansas just four days earlier.

"Our Douglas County weather spotters watched this storm all the way as it came into the county," Newton said. "We probably gave people at least 30 minutes of warning in Lawrence."

The tornado hit the southwest corner of the city, damaging buildings, downing power lines, flipping cars and spreading insulation and debris as far as five miles away to Interstate 70 on the north side of town.

"I saw the debris and said, `Oh yeah, this is real,"' said Sue Lewis, who had windows blown out of her house and shingles stripped from her roof. "I've lived in Kansas for 56 years, and I've never seen one. But now that I know what it's like, it really does sound like a train coming across your house."

The storm, which got within about 1 miles of the university campus, hit mostly newer subdivisions.

"I was listening to a television. I knew a tornado was in the area," said Lila Patton, whose town house was hit. "The siren went off, and I went to a closet and pulled the pillows over me and prayed to God."

Patton heard her garage collapse, the sound of breaking glass and the roar of the storm.

"It lasted maybe 10 seconds, and then it was over," she said.

Raintree Montessori school was also hit. Byron McReynolds, an accountant at the school, said it would be closed on Friday.

Osage County Sheriff Ken Lippert, who lives within a quarter-mile of where another tornado touched down, said there were reports of homes and barns destroyed but no injuries.

In Woodson County, the sheriff's department said eight houses were destroyed and 20 damaged in a rural part of the county near Yates Center. Homes were also damaged in Linn County.

The National Weather Service said straight-line winds were suspected of causing a train to derail in Chase County, where authorities closed a stretch of U.S. 177 and evacuated residents because of spilled sulfur dioxide.

The two people on the train were not injured, said Lt. Bruce Hyman of the Kansas Highway Patrol.

Jim Schmidt, director of emergency management for Butler County, said a tornado damaged a farmstead but did not cause any injuries. He also said a tornado turned over a tractor-trailer in neighboring Greenwood County, causing one minor injury.

Since Sunday, tornado-packed storms have killed at least 42 people -- 18 in Missouri, 15 in Tennessee, seven in Kansas and two in Illinois. Officials have estimated damage in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

President Bush declared disaster areas in 20 Tennessee counties Thursday, clearing the way for federal emergency assistance. On Tuesday, Bush did the same for parts of Kansas and Missouri.

The storms that spawned Thursday's tornadoes were part of a line stretching from Oklahoma into Nebraska. Earlier Thursday, that same line of storms spawned a tornado that swept through Oklahoma City at rush hour, causing dozens of injuries.