GREENSBURG, Kan. - A fresh wave of tornadoes ripped through the Plains late yesterday, a day after a tornado all but destroyed this town, killing eight and injuring dozens more.
The National Weather Service said it had received reports "well into the double digits" of twisters touching down in six southwest Kansas counties. Numerous tornadoes were reported from South Dakota south into Oklahoma as forecasters scrambled to keep issuing warnings.
The new storms forced rescuers to abandon search efforts yesterday in southwest Kansas, where crews had spent the day hurrying through the wreckage from Friday night's giant tornado. That twister left little standing in Greensburg beyond the local pub.
Friday's weather was blamed for nine deaths in Kansas, a figure authorities feared could rise even before the latest twisters.
City Administrator Steve Hewitt estimated 95 percent of the town of 1,500 was destroyed and predicted rescue efforts could take days as survivors could be trapped in basements and under rubble.
Among the only structures that survived was the Bar H Tavern, the town's lone bar. It was briefly converted into a morgue.
Survivors picked over the remnants of their homes and possessions, still dazed by the twister's strength and scope.
The town, previously best known as the home of the world's largest hand-dug well - 32 feet in diameter, 109 feet deep when it was finished in 1888 - was a nightmare of splintered homes and smashed vehicles, the air redolent with the smell of sap from trees stripped of bark.
"We want everybody to know, and I plead to the American people as well as the people here in Kansas, this is a huge catastrophe that has happened to our small town," Hewitt said. "All my downtown is gone. My home is gone. My staff's homes are gone. And we've got to find a way to get this to work. . . . It's going to be tough."
Among the funnel clouds yesterday were a series of half-mile wide "wedge" tornadoes - similar to the one that devastated Greensburg on Friday night, meteorologist Mike Umscheid said.
Umscheid said the slow-moving storm system would likely spawn more severe weather. "It looks like it's going to be another long night," he said.
A twister hit a high school in Sweetwater, Okla., late yesterday, and storm spotters reported damage to nearby residences in the far western Oklahoma town.
There were injuries, though the number and severity weren't clear because communications had been knocked out, a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Highway Patrol said.
The White House said President Bush was briefed on the situation, and a spokeswoman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency said FEMA was preparing to send aid.