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1 dead, 3 injured in Kansas tornado on fifth day of vortex outbreak

1 dead, 3 injured in Kansas tornado on fifth day of vortex outbreak

One person died and three others sustained minor injuries when a tornado touched down in Westmoreland, Kansas, on Tuesday afternoon, officials said.

The tornado, one of nearly 200 reported in the Plains and the Midwest since Friday, was reported at 4:40 p.m., Pottawatomie County officials said in a statement.

The identity of the person who died was being withhold until the family can be notified, Sheriff Shane Jager said at a news conference.

The injured did not require hospitalization, county spokesperson Becky Ryan said at the news conference. First responders were still conducting a grid search of the area to determine whether anyone else was killed or injured, she said.

Twenty-two homes in Westmoreland — about 55 miles west of Topeka — have been determined to be uninhabitable, 13 others sustained damage, one commercial building was damaged, and five outbuildings, such as sheds and detached garages, were destroyed, Ryan said.

A damaged school bus on the side of a road Tuesday in Westmoreland, Kan.KSNT

Jager said the tornado touched down at the northern end of the town, which has a population of 641 and occupies about half a square mile, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

“It took half the town,” he said. “It really did.”

Six trailers at an RV park were damaged or destroyed, Jager said, calling it a “significant loss.” However, no injuries were reported, he added.

Power remained out for the entire town late Tuesday, officials said.

County Emergency Management Director Jennifer Merrow said National Weather Service meteorologists updated county officials on the storm cell as it moved closer Tuesday afternoon.

“They did confirm it was just a matter of whether or not it was going to drop a funnel, and we had activated the storm sirens at that time,” Merrow said at the news conference.

The death in Westmoreland is at least the sixth since thunderstorms have tormented Plains and Midwest, sending vortexes into the ground in Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin and Michigan, according to the weather service.

Waves of cool, low-pressure fronts from the Pacific Northwest have been moving east and colliding with the warmth of the Southeast, producing a cauldron of unstable air that’s ideal for tornadoes.

Parts of eastern Nebraska and western Iowa, including Omaha and Des Moines, remained under tornado watches late Tuesday. The watches urge residents to be prepared should a tornado form, but they do not indicate any are imminent.

A tornado Saturday in Marietta, Oklahoma, was assessed at EF4 on a 1-5 scale of potency, meaning it produced sustained winds of at least 166 mph. It was the first EF4 tornado of the year for the country and the strongest so far. 

Since Friday, 198 tornadoes have been reported in the Plains and the Midwest, according to National Weather Service data. The weather service has so far confirmed more than half of them.

It was the second-most-active April for tornadoes ever recorded in the U.S., outdone only by April 2011.

Dennis Romero

Dennis Romero is a breaking news reporter for NBC News Digital. 

Kathryn Prociv

contributed

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