Microburst Causes Millions In Damage In South Hutchinson

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Talk to residents around South Hutchinson's Sunrise Acres apartment buildings, and they'll tell you it was a tornado.

But meteorologist say extensive damage caused during a severe thunderstorm late Sunday night was the result of a brief but powerful microburst with winds estimated in excess of 100 miles per hour.

Severe storms swept across south-central Kansas on Sunday evening, damaging buildings, causing power outages and downing tree limbs.

"We ran to the bathroom and prayed," said Sunrise Acres resident Ronda Bashir. "We prayed, prayed, prayed."

Bashir and many of her neighbors were awake around 11:30 Sunday evening as strong storms rolled into Reno County.

Shasta Ortega said the sound she heard moments before her windows shattered was eerily similar to what many describe in a tornado.

"It was a humming, droning sound," she said. "That's when I got my kids and hit the floor."

More than a dozen apartments were so severely damaged, inspection crews say they are unlivable until repairs can be made.

Less than half a mile away at the Collins Bus Corporation, four people were briefly trapped inside after winds crushed and collapsed parts of the building. Managers say it will be Wednesday before some workers will be allowed to return.

A nearby car dealership was also damaged in the microburst, and a gas leak was reported at the Tyson plant. Tree limbs and power lines were also reported down, with crews working throughout the morning to restore electricity.

At the Alaska Motel on Main Street, owner Sanjay Shah said inspection crews condemned his building after strong winds partially collapsed a concrete wall. Shah says the one customer in the hotel at the time of the storm was moved to another hotel.

Reno Co. Emergency Management director Bill Guy said there were no serious injuries reported as a result of the storm. H asked that residents in the affected areas be allowed to clean up without an onslaught of traffic.

"Gawkers don't need to be coming around," said Guy. "We've got a lot to clean up before these folks can get their lives back in order."

Guy said approximately 20 people stayed in shelters overnight. The Red Cross is helping those who have been displaced because of damage to their homes or apartments.

A severe thunderstorm warning was in effect for Reno County at the time of the microburst. The warning was issued approximately 30 minutes before the damaging winds swept through South Hutchinson, Guy said. The most significant damage appeared to be confined to an area just west of Main Street from Blanchard on the south to 6th Avenue on the north.

Meteorologist say the microburst's winds caused damage similar to what might be expected in an EF2 tornado.

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