Purchase photos

Weather forces cleanup in area

6/16/2014

By MIKE CORN

By MIKE CORN

and NICK SCHWIEN

Hays Daily News

STOCKTON -- It's been a long time since Butch Post has seen as much damage from straight-line winds. If he ever has.

But that's what he saw in the way of a pair of storms Saturday night in Rooks County, and elsewhere in northwest Kansas.

"I've never seen as much wind damage in a long time," he said, "if I ever have."

Post is the emergency management director of Rooks County, and twice Saturday night had to issue warnings in the face of approaching storms. He also had to survey damage in the aftermath of both storms.

The first wave of storms came in the early evening, when at least one confirmed tornado was spotted and two other funnels reported.

The second wave of storms brought a second funnel, all too quickly becoming rain-wrapped and all but impossible to see.

Terry Hamit snapped a photo of the confirmed tornado.

That tornado was estimated at approximately 100 yards wide when it crossed U.S. Highway 24 north of Webster Reservoir, Post said.

But most of the damage came in the second wave of storms, said Don Hamit, who lives about 15 miles northwest of Stockton.

"It got pretty wild," Hamit said. "Someone said there was a report of 117 mph wind. Probably in places, there might have been rotation with it. My neighbor up north had two grain bins totally destroyed and a third one buckled up. One of the buildings just up and left, went over the top of some trees."

Post said damage could be found all across Rooks County.

Trees were toppled by the storms as were power poles, grain bins and even an oil drilling rig shut down quickly so the crew should take shelter in the building nearby.

Post said there were winds in excess of 75 mph during the storm.

"Maybe closer to 80 to 100 mph," Post said. "I'm not sure."

Hamit said power was out for three to four hours, and one neighbor said he likely would be without power for four or five days.

"We fared pretty good at our place compared to some of our neighbors," Hamit said. "We got up Sunday morning and thought we had a hell of a mess with limbs and branches all around. But that's nothing compared to the mess our neighbors are dealing with."

"We had wind damage everywhere in the county," Post said.

Even car windows were blown out.

"I think it was wind picking up rocks and then shattering them," he said of the damage.

Damage wasn't confined to the Rooks County area, however.

Randy Bowers, a meteorologist at the Goodland National Weather Service, said storms and damage were widespread throughout the region, including reports of 3-inch hail in Colby.

"In town, we had a couple reports of broken windows and tree limbs down," Bowers said about Goodland. "Throughout the whole area, there were some irrigation pivots damaged, all the way from Kit Carson County in Colorado to Sherman County."

Wind gusts hit more than 70 mph in the forecast area, with a peak of 89 mph near Atwood.

"It really got going in the western portion of our area," Bowers said about the storms firing up in Colorado. "By the time they got into Kansas, it was fairly widespread, mostly from I-70 northward."

Wind also hit Oakley, downing tree limbs as much as a foot in diameter, according to George "Pappy" Lies, the Gove-Logan County emergency management director.

In Gove County, two tractor-trailers were blown over by the strong winds, its drivers taken by ambulance to the hospital.

Several customers at J.J. Oil at the north edge of Oakley suffered minor cuts when a blast of wind blew out a window.

Power poles and a number of tall signs were blown over by the peak winds.

"About everything we had was straight line winds," Lies said.

* The big damage in Rooks County has prompted special cleanup efforts.

The city of Plainville plans to pick up branches left at curb side, or residents can haul them to the field north of the ballpark. In Stockton, residents are being asked to haul branches to the fairgrounds.