Douglas County tornado damages buildings

A tornado touches down about one-half mile west of the Douglas-Johnson County line near 458 Road (North 900 Road) looking northwest on Friday. According to the photographer, the tornado rumbled across East 2300 Road just west of the silos. Enlarge photo

September 12, 2008, 4:38 p.m. Updated: 12 September 2008, 10:04 p.m.

Before heading to his basement Friday afternoon, Douglas County resident Mark Gabriel saw black clouds churning straight toward him.

When he emerged, Gabriel discovered that the storm had missed his home. Instead, it made a sharp turn northeast and hit his rental property about a quarter of a mile away.

About four miles southeast of Eudora, the rental home's windows were shattered and the porch roof ripped off. A barn was flattened. He estimated the tornado left about $70,000 in property damage.

"It was a lot closer than I thought it was. It pretty well tore things up," Gabriel said. "Now, I've got to find out if the cows are around."

An unexpected tornado touched down late Friday afternoon in Douglas County where it damaged homes, leveled barns and flattened cornfields in an approximately three-mile stretch southeast of Eudora.

As of Friday evening, eight to 10 homes and outer buildings were believed to have been damaged, Teri Smith, Douglas County emergency management director, said.

Across from Mark Gabriel's rental property, his cousin Michelle Gabriel's two barns were destroyed at 968 E. 2300 Road. Tree limbs and electric lines were down. A tree branch damaged the windshield of a semi trailer and a trampoline sat twisted in the backyard. Her home was mostly spared.

"We have some major cleanup," Michelle Gabriel said.

When the tornado warning came in, Michelle Gabriel, who works at the Eudora Post Office, called her teenage daughter urging her to take cover.

"My mom said to take shelter," Lacey said. "I was running to the Quonset when I looked up to the south and saw it spinning."

A few miles away, Brad West's horse went on the loose when the tornado plowed through a corral and a strand of trees. His horse, named Duke, eventually returned home and the family's house was safe 50 yards away.

"We're just thankful," he said.

About 4:30 p.m., all 35 of the county's sirens blared when the National Weather Service issued a tornado warning. Doppler radar picked up a tornado outside of Baldwin City. Along a path leading into Johnson County, the tornado lifted and dropped several times.

About 45 minutes after the first tornado warning, a second warning was issued when Doppler radar picked up a storm near Vinland. Firefighters spotted cloud rotations two miles south of Eudora. That storm never touched the ground.

No injuries were reported in Douglas County.

In nearby Johnson County, a few houses in De Soto sustained roof damage and trees were uprooted, said Nick Crossley with Johnson County Emergency Management. Among the wreckage was a restored barn at Zimmerman's Kill Creek Farm, a popular venue for private receptions.

Friday's tornadoes were not related to the weather events surrounding Hurricane Ike pounding the Gulf Coast, 6News Chief Meteorologist Jennifer Schack said.

The storms were the result of moisture from the Pacific Ocean colliding with a cold front. Along the boundary of the two converging air masses, weak cloud rotation occurred.

Douglas County was under a flood watch for much of Friday. Less rain is expected today, but Schack said with the rain-soaked ground, even a moderate shower could lead to flash flooding.

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