Kansas Officials Plan to Tour Tornado-Damaged Town
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An aide to Kansas Governor Sam Brownback says he and Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins will visit Baxter Springs to view tornado damage in the southeast Kansas town. Brownback spokeswoman Eileen Hawley said Brownback and Jenkins were flying to the area Monday afternoon in a Kansas Army National Guard helicopter. Jenkins represents the 2nd Congressional District, which includes the state's southeast corner. Authorities said that a storm Sunday night left 25 people in Baxter Springs injured and damaged more than 100 homes and businesses. They said the tornado was 2 miles long and 2 blocks wide.
Baxter Springs Tornado Rated EF2, Traveled 8 Miles
BAXTER SPRINGS, Kan. (AP) — The National Weather Service has rated the tornado that struck the southeast Kansas town of Baxter Springs an EF2 on the enhanced Fujita scale, with winds of 130 mph. A team from the agency's office in Springfield, Missouri issued the rating Monday after surveying damage from the tornado that struck around 5:39 pm Sunday. The Weather Service says the tornado traveled about eight miles, starting in Quapaw, Oklahoma, and ending about two miles northeast of Baxter Springs. The twister was roughly 150 yards wide in the Baxter Springs area. Survey teams also confirmed that an EF1 tornado touched down around the same time Sunday near Hammond, in southeast Kansas' Bourbon County. The tornado toppled a grain elevator onto railroad cars and damaged six homes before quickly moving north into Linn County.
Twister Struck Kansas Town Moments After Warning
BAXTER SPRINGS, Kan. (AP) — A National Weather Service meteorologist says the tornado that destroyed more than 100 homes and businesses and hurt 25 people in Baxter Springs, Kansas dropped so quickly that sirens were activated only a minute or two before the twister hit. Meteorologist Bill Davis in Springfield, Missouri says the same thing happened in Quapaw, Oklahoma, where at least one person was killed late Sunday afternoon. Davis called it a worst-case scenario in which a tornado forms right in a populated area. He says the E-F2 tornado that hit Baxter Springs spun up so fast that the weather service had barely gotten a tornado warning out when it struck. The weather service continued issuing tornado warnings after the storm left Baxter Springs, but the tornado didn't touch down again.
Tornado Damages Buildings in Linn County
PLEASANTON, Kan. (AP) — Linn County authorities say a tornado destroyed an historic church and a business but caused no serious injuries. The tornado touched down Sunday afternoon near Pleasanton, completely destroying a church that dated to 1867. A construction shop also was destroyed. Linn County emergency manager Douglas Barlet says the storm damaged some barns and outbuildings and power lines were down but no serious injuries were reported. KCTV5 reports that the tornado then crossed the Missouri border and was spotted in rural Bates County, where no serious damage was reported.
Kansas Chief Justice Honors Former Senator Emler
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court has honored a former legislator for his work on training of municipal judges. Chief Justice Lawton Nuss presented the award Monday to attorney Jay Emler, a former state senator from Lindsborg who now serves on the Kansas Corporation Commission. Emler was a municipal judge when he pushed for a state law on the qualifications for municipal judges. The 1989 law required creation of a training and examination program for municipal judges, who in Kansas are not required to be attorneys. Emler was then appointed to a commission charged with making sure municipal judges have the skills and knowledge to carry out their duties. Emler served on the commission until his appointment to the KCC in January, when he also left the Senate after 13 years.
Storms Kick Up Heavy Dust in Central Kansas
LIBERAL, Kan. (AP) — Storms that roared through the Midwest kicked up dust in drought-stricken western Kansas, causing a multi-car accident in Oklahoma just across the Kansas border and severely reducing visibility farther east. Tyrone, Oklahoma fire chief Anthony Adams says the blowing dust caused accidents involving 12 vehicles on U.S. 54 one mile south of the Kansas-Oklahoma border near Liberal. KAKE-TV reports one report said the visibility was reduced to less than 5 feet. Adams says only minor injuries were reported. It took four hours to reopen the highway. The strong winds blew dust east to the Wichita and Salina areas. At one point Sunday afternoon, visibility was only one mile near Salina and only three miles at the Wichita Mid-Continent Airport.
High Court Declines to Hear Case for Ex-Kansas Attorney General
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court has turned down former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline's request to review the indefinite suspension of Kline's law license. The justices did not comment Monday in declining to step into Kline's case. The Kansas Supreme Court suspended Kline's law license in October 2013 over his investigations of abortion providers. The state court found Kline repeatedly misled or allowed subordinates to mislead others, including a Kansas City-area grand jury, to further his investigations while attorney general and later as a county prosecutor.
Kansas Professors Weigh in on Social Media Policy
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Dozens of professors and staff members from state colleges across Kansas listened to lectures and shared their concerns about a proposed social media policy the Kansas Board of Regents is expected to put into place in upcoming weeks. The Lawrence Journal-World reports Sunday's forum on the University of Kansas campus mainly focused on academic freedom, free speech rights and social media. Most of the speakers criticized the policy announced by the regents in December that would give university chiefs the power to suspend or fire employees for their social media posts. A social media work group created by the regents recommended that disciplinary language in the policy be swapped with advisory language, but group co-chairman Charles Epp says the regents showed no interest in removing the disciplinary aspects.
Kansas Man Sentenced for Making Pipe Bomb
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A northeast Kansas man has been sentenced to a year and a day in federal prison on one count of making a destructive device. U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom's office says Monday that 36-year-old Joseph E. Rogers of Topeka acknowledged that he had built a pipe bomb for entertainment purposes. Grissom says Rogers talked about using plastic pipe wrapped in tape and filled with smokeless powder removed from ammunition. Rogers was stopped and arrested November 12, 2012, along with 30-year-old co-defendant Kyle C. Roe, who told police that he had a bomb in his pocket. Roe was taken into custody on an active felony warrant and later sentenced in December 2013 to 33 months in prison for possession of an explosive device.
Kansas City, St. Louis Mayors Oppose GOP Gun Bill
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — The mayors of Missouri's two largest cities are opposing legislation attempting to nullify some federal gun laws. Kansas City Mayor Sly James and St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay said Monday the bill would undermine the safety of urban neighborhoods. They were joined at the state Capitol by Richard Callahan, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri. Callahan said the proposal would prevent federal law enforcement agencies from working with local officials to combat gang and other gun violence. Sponsoring Republican Representative Doug Funderburk says his bill would "absolutely not" obstruct joint operations with federal authorities. The House and Senate have passed separate versions of the legislation, which would declare "null and void" federal laws deemed to be infringements on gun rights.
Kansas Woman Sentenced in Prescription Drug Case
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Manhattan woman has been placed on two years' probation for her role in a conspiracy to distribute prescription drugs at a northeast Kansas pain clinic. The U.S. Attorney's office says 30-year-old Sarah Harding-Huffine was sentenced Monday. She pleaded guilty in February to conspiracy to unlawfully distribute prescription drugs from the Manhattan clinic of Dr. Michael Schuster. Harding-Huffine admitted illegally writing prescriptions for Oxycodone and other controlled substances on blank forms that Schuster signed and left for his staff when he traveled outside the country. Harding-Huffine was not a licensed health care provider and did not have a federal drug registration number. Schuster pleaded guilty earlier this year to unlawfully distributing controlled substances. He was sentenced to five years in federal prison.
Man Dead, Woman Injured in Shooting in Kansas
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Kansas City, Kansas authorities says a woman is in critical condition and a man is dead after a shooting in a church parking lot. Police say the shooting at the vacant Faith City Church lot early Monday apparently was a domestic dispute. The man allegedly shot the woman several times and then took his own life. The woman is hospitalized in critical condition. No other injuries were reported. Police say many parents and children witnessed the shooting. An elementary school is only a block away from the scene. The relationship between the two was not released.
Lightning Blamed for Topeka Apartment Fire
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities in Topeka are blaming a lightning strike for a fire that forced several people out of an apartment complex. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that a man working at a nearby automotive shop heard a loud boom around 11 am Sunday, then saw flames erupt on the roof of an apartment building. Fire Department shift commander Mike Thompson says the witness called authorities before helping two women get out of their apartments. Crews fought the fire during a thunderstorm. Thompson says the fire moved into the attic, then was spread by high winds across the entire roof. No injuries were reported, but one apartment was extensively damaged and four or five others had smoke and water damage. The American Red Cross was helping tenants find places to stay.
Kansas Libertarians Pick Candidate for Governor
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Libertarians have chosen a southeast Kansas lawyer as their candidate for governor and his son, a Wichita physician, as his running mate. The Wichita Eagle reports 55-year-old attorney Keen Umbehr, of Alma, defeated Tresa McAlhaney, of Bonner Springs, on Saturday as the party's choice for governor. Libertarians attending their party convention also chose Umbehr's son, Dr. Josh Umbehr, to run for lieutenant governor. Party members hope the elder Umbehr receives 5 percent of the vote in the November election for governor. If he succeeds, the Libertarians will achieve major-party status, allowing them to hold primary elections in future years. Keen Umbehr said his key campaign issues will include repealing the Kansas income tax and increasing the penalties for violating the state's open-meeting and open-records laws.
Topeka Zoo Staff Preparing for Birth of Tiger Cubs
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka Zoo staffers are preparing for the birth of two or three Sumatran tiger cubs as early as this week, and their plan includes time indoors and late-night checks for the mother. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that starting Wednesday, staff will bring pregnant tiger Jingga inside at noon, in case she goes into labor during the day. The zoo expects the routine to continue until Jingga's labor starts. Her due date is May 1. Animal care supervisor Shanna Simpson said tigers typically give birth at night, when it is quiet and safe. Staff members will start this week to check between 10 pm and 2 am for signs of labor. The zoo sees the births as important because only about 500 Sumatran tigers are left in the wild.
Dispatchers Say 911 Calls by Children Commonplace
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Sedgwick County emergency dispatchers say it's not necessarily a bad thing that so many young children are calling 911, but it often takes extra patience to find out why they called. The Wichita Eagle reports about 10 calls a day from children younger than 10 come into Sedgwick County Emergency Communications, including two or three from children younger than 5. Emergency communications director Kim Pennington says the department does a lot of public education with children on calling 911, and the fact that they're making those calls is a good sign. The calls also highlight areas where the lessons taught to children can be improved. Pennington says it's sometimes difficult getting a child's address, for instance, so parents should make it a priority to teach their kids that information.
3 Finalists Announced for Leadership of Juneau Symphony
JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Three finalists have been chosen from a field of 70 applicants to become the next conductor of the Juneau Symphony. The Juneau Empire reports that the finalists are Wesley Schulz, music director and conductor of Bainbridge Symphony Orchestra in Bainbridge, Washington; Troy Quinn, music director of the Portsmouth Institute Orchestra in Portsmouth, Rhode Island; and Jeremy Briggs Roberts, music director and conductor of the Washington Idaho Symphony in Pullman, Washington. Each will lead a concert in Juneau next year, and the winning candidate is expected to be named in June 2015. The current conductor, Kyle Wiley Pickett, will leave after the current season to lead orchestras in Topeka, Kansas, and Springfield, Missouri.