Three University of Oklahoma meteorology students traveling back from a storm chase in Kansas died in a crash Friday night.
Nicholas Nair, 20, from Denton, Texas; Gavin Short, 19, of Grayslake, Illinois; and Drake Brooks, 22, of Evansville, Indiana, died in the accident just before 11:30 p.m. Friday, according to an Oklahoma Highway Patrol report.
The students were chasing the tornado, which ripped through parts of Kansas, destroying or damaging hundreds of homes and buildings, injuring several people and leaving more than 15,000 people without power, officials said Saturday.
The three were in a vehicle being driven from Nair on southbound Interstate 35 when the vehicle was rammed and struck by a semi truck in Tonkawa, about 85 miles north of Oklahoma City, the report said.
A statement released by OU said: “The university is devastated to learn of the tragic deaths of three students. You were all valued and loved members of our community.”
Authorities said more than 1,000 buildings were affected when a powerful cyclone swept through Andover on Friday night. In daylight on Saturday, emergency services found a more widespread path of destruction than originally thought.
“We now know that our damage trail extended approximately 3 1/2 to 4 miles north of where we thought it ended last night,” Andover Deputy Fire Chief Mike Roosevelt said at a briefing.
Despite the widespread destruction, no deaths or serious injuries were reported from the tornado itself. Officials said few injuries were reported. Three people were injured in Sedgwick County, including a woman who sustained serious injuries.
Search and rescue operations continued on Saturday with more than 200 responders from 30 agencies. Officials kept volunteers away from the damage until a second search for debris was conducted.
Andover Fire Chief Chad Russell previously said some homes in the neighborhood were “completely blown away”.
There are homes that have been completely torn from their foundations and entire neighborhoods wiped out, Russell said.
Buildings badly damaged included City Hall, the Andover YMCA, and Prairie Creek Elementary School.
Field teams from the National Weather Service worked Saturday to determine the extent and strength of the twister, meteorologist Kevin Darmofal said at the Wichita bureau.
Flor and Aldo Delgado said they were praying in the basement of their Andover home when a tornado passed directly overhead, destroying their home and cars.
The couple looked out the window Friday night and saw the tornado beginning to form, so they headed down into the basement.
“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 water hitting our faces and there was only dust everywhere. It felt like a minute before it was right over us,” said Aldo Delgado.
Flor Delgado said she heard her home being torn apart as they prayed for her safety, the Wichita Eagle reported.
“It was at that moment that I realized there was absolutely nothing we could do. I knew my husband felt it too because he was calm and comforting me, but eventually he just starts to lose his composure and cry. I could hear his voice cracking as he prayed,” she said.
When the tornado passed, the couple made it out of the rubble with only their clothes on their backs. Their homes, cars and personal belongings are gone.
“We didn’t even wear our wedding rings back then,” added Flor Delgado.
Gov. Laura Kelly declared a state of emergency for the hardest hit areas. The statement provides state resources to assist local jurisdictions in response and recovery efforts in affected areas nationwide.
Evergy said about 15,000 customers lost power during the tornado and that work to restore power continued. All broken gas and water lines have been shut down and there were no known active leaks as of midday.
In addition to the tornadoes, large hail was reported in several towns on the Plains. Softball-sized hail has been spotted near Holbrook, Nebraska, and Enterprise, Kansas, according to the National Weather Service and Storm Spotters.
https://nypost.com/2022/05/01/university-of-oklahoma-meteorology-students-chasing-tornado-killed-in-crash-traveling-home/ University of Oklahoma meteorology students who died in a crash on their way home after a tornado