Tornado damages at least 20 homes in southern Johnson County after storms hit Monday

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STILWELL, Kan. — Monday afternoon’s storm led to tornado warnings on both sides of the state line and damaged at least 20 homes in Johnson County, Kansas. Many of them were in the Rio Lobo Ranch neighborhood near 193rd and Antioch in Stilwell, Kansas. 

It uprooted and snapped trees in half and sent twisted pieces of metal and plywood flying, much of it ending up lodged in trees. 

“Pieces of their barn were flying everywhere,” said Debbie Battaglia, pointing to the pieces, some of which hit her home.

A likely twister from a tornado-warned storm left a path of damage about a mile long from West 193rd Terrace and Antioch Road to 191st and Hardy streets. Johnson County sheriff’s deputies reported seeing the funnel cloud as early as West 199th Street and Switzer Road. The warning, which triggered tornado sirens, likely prevented injuries. 

“Our ears popped. We heard that little rumble sound everything you hear when a tornado comes by,” Joyce Householder said.

“I peaked out the window, and that’s when I saw the hail and trees and stuff, and I went back downstairs and told my husband it’s hitting right now,” Battaglia said. 

Other areas of Johnson County, including those around 171st Street and Switzer Road, were impacted by up to nickel-size hail.

But most of the damage was in that neighborhood just west of 69 Highway where Bob Applequist’s garage was knocked off its foundation and he lost the roof to his barn.

“We thought this was going to be a peaceful spring. Yeah, not so much,” Applequist said.

Now the neighborhood is left to pick up the pieces, many of which they still aren’t sure where they came from. But even with the damage, there’s a bright side. 

“I’m sure we’re going to have water damage, but we’re OK. We’re healthy,” Battaglia said.

Johnson County Emergency Management was on scene assessing the damage Monday so they can coordinate with the National Weather Service to determine if a site survey is necessary to confirm it was a tornado and how strong it was. 

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