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Regional Headlines for Monday, April 16, 2012



UPDATE: Forecasters Estimate 75 Storms Hit Great Plains

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Forecasters say it appears about 75 tornadoes touched down in four Great Plains states Saturday. Greg Carbin, a meteorologist at the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma, said Monday most of the tornadoes were in Kansas, followed by Oklahoma, Iowa and Nebraska. The tornadoes hit during a 24-hour period from 7 am Saturday to 7 am Sunday, after forecasters warned of a "high risk" of severe weather. At least six deaths were blamed on a storm that went through the northwest Oklahoma town of Woodward and destroyed more than 100 homes and businesses. Dozens of people were injured. Many tornadoes hit in unpopulated rural areas in Kansas and Oklahoma, and Carbin says researchers are still collecting data. Initial observations from spotters produced an estimate of more than 100 twisters.

Governor Praises Kansans for Heeding Storm Warnings

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback says residents took storm warnings seriously as heavy storms and dozens of tornadoes battered the state, causing extensive damage but no fatalities. The tornadoes that touched down across the state Saturday and early Sunday hit Sedgwick and Rice counties especially hard. A reported tornado in Wichita caused damage at McConnell Air Force Base and at a Wichita mobile home park. Preliminary damage estimates could be as high as $283 million. Brownback, who issued a declaration of disaster emergency early Sunday, said the state was fortunate to have escaped fatalities. He says residents responded to the storm warnings and took cover, and that preparation may have saved many lives. 

NWS Says EF-3 Tornado Hit Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The National Weather Service says preliminary reports show that an EF-3 tornado struck the southeast side of Wichita this weekend. Jim Keeney, a meteorologist with the weather service, said Sunday that the tornado that hit Wichita late Saturday has been given a preliminary ranking of EF-3 based on damage there. Another tornado that hit Ellsworth County Saturday has been rated an EF-4. No fatalities were reported in the storms in Kansas, but extensive damage was reported in Sedgwick and Rice counties. Keeney said the ratings are preliminary, and final rankings will likely be available Monday. The weather service says the EF Scale is used to assign a tornado a 'rating' based on estimated wind speeds and damage. The tornado scale ranges from EF-1 to EF-5, which is the worst.


UPDATE: Damaging Wichita Tornado Affects Aircraft Industry

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Officials at Wichita's Boeing and Hawker Beechcraft aircraft plants and at nearby parts maker Spirit AeroSystems are evaluating damage from the tornado that slammed the southeastern part of the city. No estimates of the destruction to the aircraft manufacturing hub from Saturday night's tornado were available Monday. But analysts are already warning of a possible ripple effect on the industry. The hardest-hit company, Spirit AeroSystems Holdings Inc., has been talking daily with its customers. The EF-3 tornado hit Wichita with winds of 136 to 165 mph. Sections of roofs were torn off and windows were blown out as the tornado first hit Spirit AeroSystems, then struck the nearby Boeing facility, McConnell Air Force Base and Hawker Beechcraft.

About 7K Still Without Power in Kansas

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Utility companies have been working to restore power to thousands of customers after heavy storms and tornadoes hit Kansas over the weekend. Westar Energy said Sunday that power is expected to be fully restored by late Tuesday. The utility company said heavy sightseeing traffic in hard-hit areas of Wichita has slowed down repairs. The storms and tornadoes hit the Wichita area late Saturday. No fatalities have been reported. Westar said up to 26,500 customers lost power Saturday night, but by early Sunday that number had been reduced to about 7,300 customers in Sedgwick County and 140 in Butler County. The storms knocked down more than 110 power poles and broke nearly 200 power lines and also damaged substations. Westar Energy provides electric service to about 687,000 in Kansas.


Governor Brownback Vetoes Bill Expanding Bank Commissioner's Authority 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback has vetoed a bill strengthening the Kansas bank commissioner's regulatory authority because it also would shift power over hiring and salaries away from the governor's office. It's the second time this month the Republican governor vetoed an obscure bill approved by the GOP-controlled Legislature with bipartisan support. The first bill dealt with barbering regulations. Brownback rejected the banking bill last week. His office didn't announce the action, but The Associated Press obtained a copy of his veto message Monday. The governor said most of the bill represented good policy. But he objected to provisions giving the commissioner independent authority to hire more of his staff and set their salaries. Brownback said the bill would limit the governor's ability to run the executive branch efficiently.


Kansas Secy of State Puts Access to Business Records Online

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Secretary of State Kris Kobach says his office has completed work to make business records filed in Kansas available online. Kobach said Monday that more than 2 million records are now available for review by the public, attorneys, businesses and the media. He said the process to improve access was started under his predecessor Ron Thornburgh. Businesses based in Kansas must file annual reports with the secretary of state's office. Companies and nonprofit groups also must file their articles of incorporation and register an agent with the office. Many lending transactions also require creditors to file a statement with the secretary of state, who then maintains a database of the personal property used to back loans. Kobach also created an online portal for civics education.

New Computer System Will Cause DMV Delays in May

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Department of Motor Vehicles won't be able to provide some services while it installs a new computer system during the first week of May. The Kansas Department of Revenue says the new computer system will combine three old systems into one, providing more efficiency. Because of the upgrade, state and county offices won't issue driver's licenses and identification cards, or process vehicle titles and registrations, from May 1 to 7. People who have licenses or registrations expiring in April or the first week of May are encouraged to renew before April 30. The Garden City Telegram reports the transfer of 6.8 million vehicle registration records will begin April 30. The new system is expected to be ready for operation May 8.


Kansas Governor, Lawmakers May Hit Impasse over Education Spending

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican Governor Sam Brownback and Kansas legislators appear headed toward a stalemate over spending on public schools. An impasse could block any significant increase in aid or change in how dollars are distributed as the trial of an education funding lawsuit looms in June. Brownback has proposed overhauling how the state parcels out more than $3 billion — roughly half its general tax revenues — to its 286 school districts. But many legislators see rewriting the funding formula as too daunting a task for an annual, 90-day session already crowded with other big issues. Lawmakers now expect to study the governor's proposal over the summer and fall. Democrats and some Republicans also are seeking to reverse some cuts made in recent years.


Ex-State Senator Feels 'Vindicated' in Racing Case

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A judge has ruled that Kansas gambling regulators had no grounds to bar a former state legislator from being involved with a dog-racing track in his hometown. Jim Barone was a state senator when the Racing and Gaming Commission refused in 2007 to approve a background check on him. The decision kept Barone from serving on the board of a nonprofit group affiliated with Camptown Greyhound Park, in the southeastern Kansas town of Frontenac. Barone responded by suing the commission. He said Monday he feels vindicated by last week's ruling by Shawnee County District Judge Franklin Theis, who concluded the commission's decision portrayed Barone in a false light. The racing commission declined comment Monday. Barone, a Frontenac Democrat, did not seek re-election in 2008.


UPDATE: 2 Killed, 6 Injured in NE Kansas Accident

MILFORD, Kan. (AP) — A head-on collision in northeastern Kansas has killed two drivers and injured several members of a construction crew riding in a van. The Kansas Highway Patrol says the crash happened around 7 am Monday on U.S. 77 in Geary County, about one mile north of Milford. The patrol says a southbound pickup truck driven by 39-year-old Lancy Davis II, of Palmer, crossed the center line and collided head-on with a van driven by 52-year-old Juan Perez, of Wichita. Six of the seven passengers in the van were taken to hospitals in Topeka, Junction City and Manhattan for treatment of injuries. All of the men were either from Wichita or living in that city.

Lawrence Group Wants to Legalize Assisted Death

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A group of Lawrence residents says Kansas should become the fourth state in the country to legalize physician-assisted death. The Kaw Valley Older Women's League is circulating a petition to ask Kansas lawmakers to introduce legislation to make physician-assisted death legal. Members told the Lawrence Journal-World they want to at least start a discussion about the issue so Kansans could consider it an option. The group supports restrictions similar to a law enacted in Oregon in 1997. Oregon requires a doctor to prescribe medication but it must be administered by the patient, who must have a prognosis of six months or less to live. The Kaw Valley Older Women's League is part of the national organization that addresses issues that affect women in midlife or older.

Former Respiratory Therapist Sentenced to 25 Years for Child Porn

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A former respiratory therapist who worked with the pediatrics unit at the University of Kansas Hospital has been sentenced to 25 years in prison for producing child pornography at his home in Missouri. Michael D. Toal was sentenced Friday in federal court in Kansas City, Missouri. after pleading guilty in September 2010. He admitted sexually abusing an 8-year-old he was babysitting by taking pornographic photos of her while she slept. Toal also told investigators he had inappropriate sexual contact with a patient while he worked as a respiratory therapist, though it's unclear where that occurred. Toal served several months in 2009 as a volunteer with the Jackson County, Missouri chapter of Court Appointed Special Advocates.

Dairy and Cheese Plant Coming to Southwest Kansas

HUGOTON, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Dairy Ingredients plans to construct a new production facility in southwestern Kansas, investing $20 million and creating 60 jobs within two years. Officials with the company announced their plans Monday during an event in Hugoton, where the plant will be built. The project will also create about 150 temporary construction jobs. The plant will process some 1 million pounds of milk per day to produce dairy products when it opens later this year. It will expand to 2.5 million pounds by the end of 2013. Expansion at the plant will allow for cheese production and other dry milk ingredients. Kansas Dairy Ingredients is based in Missouri but intends to move its business operations to Kansas City, Kansas. Kansas officials said the plant would boost the state's dairy industry.

Visiting Tankers Leave ND Base, Return to NE, KS

GRAND FORKS, N.D. (AP) — Twenty-four refueling tankers that took refuge at an Air Force base in North Dakota during weekend storms in Nebraska and Kansas have returned to their home bases. The Grand Forks Herald reports that 16 of the tankers flew in to Grand Forks Air Force Base from McConnell Air Force Base near Wichita, Kan., and eight more came from Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha, Nebraska. The Grand Forks base was home to tankers for half a century until losing the mission during the 2005 round of military base closings and realignments.

Storms Leave Damage at Quivira Wildlife Refuge

GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) — The storms that raked Kansas during the weekend left downed power lines and some closed roads at the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge. The good news is that a pair of nesting eagles at the central Kansas refuge apparently survived the storms. The Wichita Eagle reports Saturday's storms ripped out about a mile of power lines and poles at the refuge and uprooted about a quarter mile of trees. Several roads leading into the refuge were closed. Barry Jones, a visitor services specialist at the refigure, says an eagle's nest with hatchlings had survived the storm. An adult bald eagle was spotted Sunday on the nest but it wasn't immediately clear if hatchlings in the nest had survived the storm.


Forest Service Considers Ending Cave Closure Orders 

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (AP) — The U.S. Forest Service is considering lifting a two-year closure of caves and abandoned mines in Colorado and several other states after imposing it in an effort to halt a deadly fungal outbreak that affects bats. The region includes Colorado, South Dakota, Wyoming, Kansas and Nebraska. In 2010, the Forest Service closed most access to caves and abandoned mines in the region to prevent the spread of white-nose syndrome, which killed millions of bats in the East. According to the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, the ban was imposed out of concern that cavers might spread the disease. Experts say they now know more about the disease and the closures may no longer be needed in some areas.

Governor to Sign Kansas Water Measure

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback travels to northwestern Kansas this week to sign legislation intended to help conserve and extend the Ogallala Aquifer. At a ceremony Tuesday in Colby, Brownback will sign a bill that amends the Groundwater Management District Act to allow for creation of local enhanced management areas. The intent is to encourage more local action on saving water. Brownback proposed several measures this year to promote water conservation. He has already signed bills easing restrictions on use of water rights and giving rights holders more flexibility in managing their allotments over several years.

Defendant Challenges Sentence in KU Ticket Case

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — One of seven people convicted in the scheme to steal and sell Kansas basketball and football tickets wants his sentence reduced. Thomas Blubaugh, a former consultant to the University of Kansas athletic department, filed a motion in federal court late Friday asking that his 46-month sentence be reduced to 33 months. Blubaugh and his wife, Charlette Fay Blubaugh, the university's former ticket director, were convicted in the ticket scheme, which cost the university athletic department $2 million. In his motion, Blubaugh contended that his sentencing judge relied heavily on hearsay and assumptions in deciding that thousands of unsold tickets stashed in a Lenexa storage unit showed the Blubaughs were trying to hide their crimes. The Kansas City Star reports prosecutors have not yet responded to his motion.


$1.4M Winning Lottery Ticket Sold in South Central Kansas 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — While violent weather was hitting south-central Kansas this weekend, someone in the region was winning a state lottery jackpot worth more than $1.45 million dollars. Lottery officials say one winning ticket in Saturday night's Super Kansas Cash drawing was sold in the 15-county area. The ticket matched the winning numbers of 13-15-21-25-30 plus the Cash Ball number of 14. The south-central region includes the counties of Barton, Rice, McPherson, Marion, Stafford, Reno, Harvey, Pratt, Kingman, Sedgwick, Butler, Barber, Harper, Sumner and Cowley.


Freshman KU Basketball Player to Transfer 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — University of Kansas forward Merv Lindsay has decided to transfer in search of more playing time. The freshman played sparingly in 12 games last season, when the KU Jayhawks won their eighth consecutive Big 12 championship and lost to Kentucky in the national title game. He scored nine points against Howard and two points against Texas Tech. Jayhawks coach Bill Self said that he met with Lindsay last week to discuss his situation, and the 6-foot-7 Lindsay decided that he would transfer at the end of the spring semester. Lindsay said in a statement that he has not decided where he will transfer.

Discovery Center in Manhattan Open for Visitors

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — The Discovery Center in Manhattan, which is designed to celebrate the Flint Hills, is now open to visitors. The $24.5 million center opened its doors after a dedication ceremony on Saturday. The Manhattan Mercury reports the main attraction during the center's opening was an immersive experience, a 15-minute film that shows effects such as fog, mist and wind on a large screen as visitors watch. Other exhibits include information on the Flint Hills history, an underground forest, 7-foot Blue Stem roots and an explanation of the role of fire in the Flint Hills.

Grant Helps Greensburg Replace Trees

GREENSBURG, Kan. (AP) — Greensburg has received a $20,000 grant that is going toward replacing trees to the tornado-stricken, south-central Kansas town. Greensburg officials bought 61 trees with a $20,000 gift to Greensburg from the U.S. Chamber Business Civic Leadership Center and Siemens USA. The grant came from winning the Siemens Sustainable Community Awards. An EF-5 tornado destroyed much of Greensburg five years ago. The tornado also killed 13 people. Stacy Barnes, museum director and director of tourism for Greensburg, said the trees are another sign of progress for Greensburg.

KC Community Colleges to Receive $5M for Training

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City's Metropolitan Community College system is receiving $5 million from the U.S. Department of Labor to prepare American workers for high-tech, high-skill jobs. The money comes from a program funded with fees paid by employers to bring foreign workers to the U.S. on temporary visas. The program is intended to help reduce companies' need for foreign workers by preparing Americans for highly skilled work. The Kansas City colleges will use the grant to help pay the salaries of new employees receiving on-the-job training in engineering and information technology.

UMKC Receives 2 Gifts Totaling $1.25M

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The University of Missouri-Kansas City has announced two new gifts totaling $1.25 million. The gifts were announced during the recent groundbreaking for an $18 million expansion of the Miller Nichols Learning Center that will add 950 classroom seats. One gift worth $1 million comes from the Miller Nichols Charitable Foundation. Another gift worth $250,000 was presented by Jeannette Nichols. The money will be used to renovate the third and fourth floors of the Miller Nichols Library. In 2010, the Board of Curators approved a bond initiative that is funding the $18 million expansion project.

Kansas Hit by More than Month's Worth of Tornadoes

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The National Weather Service says Kansas likely had more than a month's worth of tornadoes in this weekend's outbreak. Mike Hudson, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Kansas City, said Sunday that crews are assessing the hardest hit areas from the storms that hit Saturday and Sunday. They're trying to determine how many tornadoes were involved. State officials reported widespread damage in Sedgwick and Rice counties, but no fatalities. Hudson says there were 122 preliminary tornado reports in the region, with most occurring in Kansas, but some of those are likely multiple reports of the same tornado. He says statistics show Kansas averages 12 tornadoes in April. Hudson says based on the early reports that it's likely there will have been more than 12 tornadoes in Kansas in this outbreak alone.

**this story has been updated. Please see above. 

KS Secretary of State to Discuss Online Business Records Initiative

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Secretary of State Kris Kobach is preparing to outline efforts by his office to improve online access to Kansas business records. Kobach scheduled a Monday news conference to discuss the initiative. The secretary of state's office is responsible for maintaining hundreds of thousands of records for Kansas businesses. Businesses based in Kansas must file annual reports with the secretary of state's office. Companies and nonprofit groups also must file their articles of incorporation and register an agent with the office. Many lending transactions also require creditors to file a statement with the secretary of state, who then maintains a database of the personal property used to back loans.

**this story has been updated. Please see above.

Wichita Aircraft Companies Hit by Storm

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita aircraft manufacturing sites were damaged in the heavy weekend storms and tornadoes that hit the area. Boeing says the storms that started late Saturday damaged at least three of the company's buildings in Wichita. Boeing spokeswoman Yvonne Johnson-Jones said Sunday that the company is still assessing the damage and isn't commenting yet on whether any of its aircraft were damaged. Spirit AeroSystems spokeswoman Debbie Gann said some of that company's building sustained significant damage. The Wichita Eagle reports that one of Hawker Beechcraft's buildings lost part of a roof and repairs were under Sunday. The storms also struck in Nebraska, Iowa and northwest Oklahoma, where five people died.

**this story has been updated. Please see above. 

2 Killed, 6 Injured in NE Kansas Accident

MILFORD, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas State Highway Patrol says a collision between a truck and a van carrying an eight-member construction crew killed two people and injured six others. The accident Monday morning one mile north of Milford killed the drivers of the two vehicles. The six injured passengers in the van had to be cut from the wreckage. Two passengers with serious injuries were airlifted to Topeka, two were taken to a Manhattan hospital and two were taken to a Junction City hospital. One passenger in the van was not injured. Patrol Lieutenant Gregory Harkrader said the investigation into the accident is continuing. A 15-mile stretch on U.S. 77 was closed Monday morning after the accident.

**this story has been updated. Please see above. 

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