Power company and electrical contracting company crews were busy Wednesday morning cleaning up about a half-mile stretch of power poles north of Great Bend snapped and broken by violent winds that swept through the area Tuesday night.
The damage, reported at 11:53 p.m. on NW 30 Road, ran along the south side of All Seasons Mobile Park. Residents there awoke to find debris scattered about and trees shattered.
The wind came through at just before midnight, said resident and park manager Joy Torrez. Some heard what sounded like a freight train or a meteor crashing.
“That was no straight-line wind,” Torres said. Those who live in the small cluster of mobile homes are convinced it was a tornado. A peak gust was reported at 73 mph at the Barton County Landfill.
As morning came, the storm had passed and the sun shone. Most of a roof was ripped off one the houses, a child’s swing set was tossed across the yard and a trampoline sat crumpled in a shelter belt.
“We’re just happy nobody was hurt,” Torres said. The park lost power briefly and the siren never sounded.
Several of Sunflower Electric’s poles went down in the area, said Chris Huber of Wheatland Electric. Sunflower in Wheatland’s power provider.
“That’s why our power went out,” Huber said. “That’s our feed.”
Huber arrived on the rain-soaked, wind-swept scene in the wee hours of the morning. Their first goal was to isolate where the disruption was so they could proceed.
After a couple hours, electricity was rerouted through an alternative feed and power was restored, he said.
Crews from Sunflower, PAR Electric (the Kansas City, Mo., company that contracts with Sunflower), other contractors and Wheatland remained throughout the day. Splintered poles laid across the road, the lines that had been hanging overhead laid limp on the asphalt.
Huber said Sunflower and Wheatland take turns helping each other in times like these. “Our goal is to get the power back on.”
Midwest Energy spokesman Mike Morley said Midwest had 10 69-kv single poles down north of Great Bend. Another 13 power poles were down in Pawnee County southwest of Larned, disrupting service to several hundred customers for a few hours.
Midwest Energy is a customer-owned electric and natural gas utility located in central and western Kansas that serves 48,000 electric customers.
Morley said power is restored by rerouting the power through a backfeed from a different line.
“We’re hiring contractors work on putting poles back up and they should be done by tomorrow,” Morley said. “The wind will take the weakest pole out and take down other poles with it.”
Sunflower estimates the stretch of 30 Road will be closed for a couple of days.
Meanwhile in Great Bend, “it was a very busy night,” said Charlie Suchy, the city’s utility superintendent. His people went to work at about 11:30 p.m. Tuesday monitoring pumping stations and wells, as well as fixing two water line breaks.
The breaks, on 10th Street and one on Broadway, were caused by the power outage, Suchy said. The newer pumps in the city’s system come on slowly after the power is restored, that’s not the case with the older units.
All the older pumps kicked back on at one time, creating a “water hammer,” he said. This sudden, large rush of water caused weak spots in the line to burst.
But, Suchy said, the leaks were repaired in quick order. This was important because of consumer needs and in the event of a fire. “The public health and safety are foremost.”
At 12:23 a.m. Wednesday Great Bend Fire Department responded to All Seasons, where power lines were down. They also performed two carbon monoxide checks Tuesday night during the storm.
In addition, at 12:28 a.m. a resident told Barton County Sheriff’s Office that a “telephone pole” was struck by lightning on the west side of the road.
Reports of hail at least one-inch were reported in Lane County (1.75); Ford County (1.75); Gray County (1.5); Ness County (1.25); Ellis County (1.0); Kiowa County (1-inch); Pawnee County (1.25); Trego County (1 inch); and Stafford County, two miles southeast of Dillwyn (2-inch).
Two inches of rain fell in 40 minutes with hail covering the ground nine miles south of Mullinville in Kiowa County.
Wind damage was also reported at the Barton County Landfill on NE 30th Road one mile east of Barton County College. A wind gauge at the landfill recorded a gust of 73 miles per hour.
Emergency officials said the damage in the county was, indeed, caused by the strong, straight-line winds.
A thunderstorm watch was issued for western and central Kansas Wednesday afternoon, for the possibility of severe storms overnight.