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Storms Rage Through Southern Plains; Trees, Homes Damaged, Train Derailed

May 27, 1996

LEE’S SUMMIT, Mo. (AP) _ Thunderstorms swept across the southern Plains states with tornadoes and hail as big as softballs, destroying homes, overturning cars and knocking railroad cars off their tracks.

Wind up to 125 mph ripped through western Missouri late Sunday. At least 13 homes were destroyed and 98 others were damaged in Lee’s Summit, a town outside Kansas City. As least 10 people were injured, none seriously.

Faith Cox said she was in her kitchen when she ``saw big bubbly raindrops on the window and heard a big booming wind like something was falling down.″

``The houseplants inside were being shaken even though the windows were closed,″ said Cox, whose house was not damaged. ``The lights were flickering, but it all seemed like it was over in a minute.″

However, radar indicated only strong wind in the area at the time, not a tornado, said meteorologist Dave Beusterien at the National Weather Service in Kansas City.

Storms also battered parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska with wind and heavy rain. And continuing rainy weather today in Nebraska forced that state’s Air National Guard to cancel Memorial Day flights over 40 communities.

Some holiday weekend campers in Colorado had to head for dry ground because two days of heavy rain combined with a foot of snow in the mountains to produce a risk of flooding. Minor lowland flooding was reported along rivers in eastern Colorado.

Today, thunderstorms extended from Texas to the Great Lakes.

Lightning and rain continued early today at Lee’s Summit as residents looked at the damage around one cul de sac, Work crews scrambled to shut off gas lines.

Siding was torn off one home, exposing its frame. Some homes lost their second stories, while other were hit by falling trees. But damage was random.

``You can have a house blown off its foundation and across the street have another house with minor damage,″ Assistant Fire Chief John Spencer said.

Elsewhere in Missouri, two tornadoes were reported southeast of Kansas City. One damaged trees at Holden.

At least eight tornadoes _ accompanied by 90 mph wind and baseball-size hail _ were reported in Kansas.

Several farms were damaged when six tornadoes moved through four counties in southwest Kansas late Sunday afternoon, said National Weather Service meteorologist Jeff Hutton. One twister in Gray County stayed on the ground for 17 minutes, leaving a 10-mile-long track.

No serious injuries were reported.

Flooding in northeastern Kansas set cars afloat near Topeka. Elsewhere in the state, hailstones were measured at up to 2 3/4 inches in diameter and 3.31 inches of rain fell at Holton, just north of Topeka.

In Oklahoma, a tornado overturned about 30 empty cars of a Union Pacific coal train in a rural area of the northeastern county of Nowata. Crews worked today to right the cars.

The train had been halted along a siding and there was no crew on board, said Union Pacific spokesman John Bromley in Omaha, Neb.

Several tornadoes were reported in the area and in the state’s Panhandle.

``We’ve got a lot of tore up houses, 12 cars overturned south of Nowata and some damaged barns,″ said sheriff’s deputy Daniel Burruss.

Oklahoma City was hit by heavy rain, wind estimated at 60 mph to 70 mph, and hail as big as softballs.

The storm system also affected parts of Texas, though the storms were believed to have moved too fast to provide much moisture to drought-stricken areas.

Wind to 78 mph was reported in Collin County, north of Dallas, along with hail up to an inch in diameter. To the south, a flash flood warning was in effect early today for Edwards County where 3 to 4 inches of rain fell during a four-hour period before dawn.

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