Three college students returning from storm chasing in Kansas died in a car crash Friday night, authorities said.
The trio of University of Oklahoma meteorology students died in the crash shortly before 11:30 p.m. Friday, according to the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.
Nicholas Nair, 20, of Denton, Texas, Gavin Short, 19, of Grayslake, Illinois, and Drake Brooks, 22, of Evansville, Indiana, watched as the tornado struck parts of Kansas and destroyed or damaged hundreds of houses and buildings. The storm injured several people and left more than 15,000 people without power, officials said Saturday.
The three men were in a car Nair was driving south on Interstate 35, where the vehicle hydroplaned and was struck by a semi-trailer truck in Tonkawa, about 85 miles north of Oklahoma City, according to the highway patrol report.
In a statement, the University of Oklahoma said the institution was “devastated” by the deaths.
“The university is devastated to learn of the tragic deaths of three students,” it read. “Each was a valued and loved member of our community.”
More than 1,000 buildings were affected when a tornado swept through Andover on Friday evening, authorities said. Early Saturday morning, emergency crews found a more extensive path of destruction than expected.
“We now know that our damage path was about 3 1/2 to 4 miles north of where we thought it ended last night,” the deputy fire chief said. ‘Andover, Mike Roosevelt, during a briefing.
Despite the destruction, there were no reported fatalities or serious injuries from the tornado itself. Officials said only a few injuries were reported. In Sedgwick County, three people were injured, including a woman who was seriously injured.
Search and rescue operations continued on Saturday with more than 200 emergency responders from 30 agencies. Officials kept volunteers away from the damage until a secondary search for the debris was carried out
Andover Fire Chief Chad Russell said earlier that some homes in the neighborhood “were completely destroyed.”
Russel said there are homes that have been completely destroyed and entire neighborhoods wiped out.
City Hall, the Andover YMCA and Prairie Creek Elementary School were among the heavily damaged buildings.
National Weather Service field crews worked Saturday to determine the severity of the tornado, according to meteorologist Kevin Darmofal at the Wichita office.
Flor and Aldo Delgado said they prayed in the basement of their home in Andover as a tornado passed overhead, destroying their home and cars.
“The lights started flickering and eventually went out, and within a minute the whole house started shaking and it was so loud. We started to feel the water hitting our faces, and it didn’t there was just dust everywhere. It lasted what felt like a minute that he was right above us,” Aldo Delgado said.
Flor Delgado said she could hear their house being torn apart as they prayed for their safety, the Wichita Eagle reported.
“At the time I realized there was absolutely nothing we could do. I knew my husband was feeling it too because he was calm and comforting me, but at some point he started to lose his mind and crying. I could hear his voice cracking as he prayed,” she said.
When the tornado passed, their home, cars and personal items were gone. The couple left with only the clothes they wore when they weathered the storm in the basement.
“We didn’t even have our wedding rings back then,” added Flor Delgado.
Governor Laura Kelly has declared a state of disaster emergency for the hardest hit areas.
Evergy, a utility company, said about 15,000 customers lost power during the tornado and work was continuing to restore power. All broken gas and water lines were shut off and at noon there were no known active leaks.
Along with the tornadoes, large hail was reported in several Plains towns, according to the National Weather Service and storm watchers.
With post wires