Tornado slams Sheridan County town of Selden, damage extensive, no serious injuries

Updated: May. 24, 2021 at 3:24 PM CDT
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An active day for severe weather in Western Kansas included powerful storms that produced tornados, strong winds and hail. Chief Meteorologist Ross Janssen says that after some severe weather to start the week, the potential will return for many areas of northern Kansas heading into midweek. You can revisit events as they unfolded with Monday’s weather alert out west via the updates below.

Late Monday night, May 24, 2021: The Sheridan County Emergency Manager delivered some good news late Monday night, letting us know that there were no reported injuries in the small town of Selden, which took a direct hit from a tornado earlier in the evening. The damage was extensive to homes, buildings -- including the historic hotel in town -- powerlines, trees and grain silos along Highway 83 that runs through town. There are also train cars overturned and a reported gas leak.

Selden Methodist Church Pastor Jacob Schadel said there are likely homes that are unlivable after the tornado. Selden is a town of fewer than 300 people. It’s a community Pator Schadel said is “tightknit.” Minutes after the tornado, he said people were in the streets, helping and checking on neighbors.

Eyewitness news sent a crew to gather further information on the extent of damage and to tell stories of the close community coming together for the major cleanup effort ahead. Tune into Eyewitness News This Morning, starting at 4:30 a.m. on KWCH 12 for coverage from Selden and the surrounding area.

Update 9 p.m.: At least half of a dozen tornadoes were confirmed with severe storms that impacted several counties in northwest Kansas. The most significant damage was from a tornado that hit the small Sheridan County town of Selden a little after 6 p.m. Monday. Pastor Jacob Schadel with the Selden United Methodist Church gave us a clearer picture of widespread damage throughout the community. This included roofs ripped off of some homes and buildings, train cars tipped over, power lines down, trees uprooted and branches broken. There was also extensive damage to the nearby grain elevator with a silo collapsed.

Update 8 p.m.: The National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for east central Kearny County and southwestern Finney County until 8:45 p.m. A severe thunderstorm capable of producing a tornado was located near Deefield, moving southeast at 15 mph.

In Sheridan County, the emergency manager reports buildings, powerlines and trees down and homes damaged. Kansas Highway Patrol Trooper Tod Heilman reports the KHP was called out to multiple injury reports from flipped over semis in and around the Selden area. There are also reports of train cars flipped from the tornado.

Update 7 p.m.: Tornado warnings continue for Decatur and Kearny counties. The warning for Decatur County continues until 7:45 p.m.. The storm capable of producing a tornado was located near Deseden, about 15 miles north of Hoxie. The Kearny County threat continues until at least 7:30. A storm possible tornado-producing storm was located near Lakin, moving east at 10 mph.

In the small Sheridan County town of Selden, Eyewitness News is sending a crew. We’re told the town of less than 300 people took a direct hit and experienced significant damage, including to the grain elevator. Selden is about 283 miles northwest of Wichita.

Update 6:30 p.m.: There are preliminary reports of damage from a tornado in the community of Selden in Sheridan County. At 6:25 p.m., a large, extremely dangerous tornado was located over Selden, about 15 miles north of Hoxie. This storm is moving east at 20 mph.

Update 5:25 p.m.: A tornado warning remains in effect until 6:30 p.m. for north central Thomas and southern Rawlins counties. A severe storm capable or producing a tornado was located seven miles north of Gem, or 13 miles northeast of Colby, moving northeast at 10 mph. Weather spotters reported a funnel cloud. Severe thunderstorm warnings are in effect for Gove, Hamilton, Kearny, Logan and Scott counties.

Update 4:50 p.m.: A third tornado warning for Thomas County is for a storm in the north part of the county, north of Colby. This storm is not an immediate threat to the city Another brief tornado was confirmed northeast of Colby with a storm moving away from tonw. Tornado watches for several counties continue until at least 9 p.m. Monday night. Severe thunderstorm warnings, bringing threats of hail and potentially-damaging winds, are in effect for Hamilton, Kearny, Logan, Scott and Wichita counties.

Update: 4:25 p.m.: A new tornado warning in Thomas County is for a storm to the southwest of Colby. While there has not been a confirmed tornado with this storm, radar indicates rotation. This storm could reach Colby within the next 20 to 30 minutes. A brief tornado was confirmed with the storm moving away from town to the northeast.

Update 4:15 p.m.: A tornado warning for northern Thomas County includes a storm northeast of Colby. This storm is not threatening Colby, moving away from town, slowly at about 10 mph. This is currently the only tornado warning with storms that have fired up in western Kansas. The tornado warning for northeast Thomas County continues until 5 p.m.

A funnel cloud was spotted with a tornado warning northeast of Colby in Thomas County.
A funnel cloud was spotted with a tornado warning northeast of Colby in Thomas County.(Lydia Rinehart)

Update 3:45 p.m.: More tornado warnings pop up with reports of a brief tornado on the ground south of Colby in Thomas County. Tornado warnings are currently in effect for portions of Wallace, Logan, Sherman, Thomas and Wichita counties. There are no reports of damage nor threats to more populated towns with brief tornadoes that have been spotted.

Monday early afternoon, May 24, 2021: Severe storms capable of packing punches with large hail, strong winds and the possibility of isolated tornadoes brings on a Weather Alert Day for Western Kansas. The storm chances continue until late Monday night.

A tornado watch is in effect for several counties in the west as Storm Team 12 points out, “a tornado or two also cannot be ruled out,” even though primary threats are large hail and damaging winds. A little after 3 p.m., a tornado warning was issued for northeast Wallace County, the first such warning of the day. The threat is in a rural area northeast of Sharon Springs. The storm produced four, brief tornadoes.

More broadly, tornado watches are in effect for the following counties: Cheyenne, Decatur, Finney, Gove, Graham, Greeley, Hamilton, Kearny, Lane, Logan, Ness, Norton, Rawlins, Scott, Sheridan, Sherman, Thomas, Trego, Wallace, Wichita.

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