Dust dominates -- again
By MIKE CORN
Pushed along by nearly 60 mph winds, a wall of dust swept through Hays and much of northwest Kansas early Sunday evening, blotting out the sun and sending shingles and tree limbs flying.
Temperatures dropped nearly 20 degrees in less than 30 minutes in the wake of yet another polar-driven storm system.
Despite the strong winds and a flurry of activity, there was little real damage in the Hays area, according to Ellis County Emergency Management Director Bill Ring.
Wind reports were filtering in to the National Weather Service offices across the region.
The strongest wind gust -- 64 mph -- was reported in the Hudson area south of Great Bend.
Peak winds hit 59 mph at Hays Regional Airport at 6:15 p.m., not long after the polar front swept through. A second report of 58 mph was reported at 5:46 p.m. a mile northeast of Hays.
The wind hit 59 mph at the Russell airport as well.
In Goodland, the peak wind gust hit 49 mph out of the northeast, the National Weather Service office reported. Smith Center reported a peak wind gust of 55 mph, and Phillipsburg reported a 53 mph gust.
At the Hill City airport, the peak wind gust was 58 mph; southeast of Gove it hit 57 mph; Colby had a 54 mph gust; and Norton saw a wind gust of 52 mph.
"That was quite the adventure yesterday," Ring said of the wall of dust that swept through the area early Sunday evening. "Wow is probably the best way to describe it."
Ring said no damage reports came in from Ellis County, but calls in Hays reported street lights "bouncing around" and lines swaying.
But conditions immediately after the strong bout of wind were relatively calm, with few emergency calls.
Midwest Energy spokesman Mike Morley reported two small outages affecting 10 or more customers.
The first began at 6:19 p.m., affecting 17 meters in eastern Rush County, including three homes. The outage lasted just less than two and a half hours, and was caused by a broken pole, he said.
Several other one- and two-meter outages were reported after 6 p.m. Sunday. All but an irrigation pump near Oakley are back online, Morley said.
The wind and blowing dust affected much of the state, sparking a big grass fire in the Salina area when a power line fell as a result of the wind. The fire prompted the Kansas Highway Patrol to close a mile-long section of Interstate 135. As many as 3,000 customers in the area were without power.
Ring said he called the weather bureau in Dodge City after the strongest winds swept through.
At the time, they said the highest wind speed was 61 mph at the Hill City airport, a report later modified.
"Nebraska may be out of topsoil," Ring quipped.