By Jim Misunas
ROZEL — Brian and Kristin Hammeke and Lyle and Teresa Reece of rural Rozel appreciate their friends and neighbors.
Friends and neighbors, and many people they didn’t even know, began to help pick up the pieces of damage from Saturday’s tornadic storm.
A tornado developed six miles southwest of Rozel at 7:18 p.m. and moved to one mile west of town before turning to the northwest and dissipating about three miles northwest of Rozel at 7:47 p.m.
The tornado intensity was rated as high as EF4 based on measured winds of 165 to 185 mph by a Doppler On Wheels. The tornado covered seven miles with a maximum damage path width of 1,100 yards.
The Hammekes’ sparkling brick home off 300th Ave. was destroyed and damage is estimated at more than $100,000. The Reeces’ home off Ave. Q Road and other buildings sustained damage estimated at several thousand dollars.
“We want to thank everyone who started arriving Saturday night after the storm,” said Kristin Hammeke, a Pawnee Heights teacher. “There were a lot of friends and neighbors. But there were also a lot of people from a lot of places. I really don’t know how they found our place.”
The Hammekes were home Saturday night and escaped to their basement with their two dogs a few minutes before the tornado damaged their property. The home is built with a spectacular view of all four directions.
“We had a few minutes warning. It happened quickly, but we saw a funnel cloud south of us,” Kristin Hammeke said.
LaMunyon Cleaning and Restoration and Schaller Construction are assisting with Hammekes’ cleanup. The Hammekes plan to rebuild their home on the current location. The Hammekes operate a full-scale farming operation that grows corns, wheat, alfalfa and soybeans.
Lyle Reece saw the tornado south of his property off Q Road and moved to safety in his basement. Several pieces of property sustained damage. Miller Construction and Pelton Contracting have provided construction assistance.
“We really appreciated all the help we received, from people picking up debris to others who provided food for volunteers and our family,” Reece said. “There were at least 75 people here, including some people I didn’t know. It was fantastic to see that type of help for us.”
The supercell thunderstorm developed east of Dodge City about 5:30 p.m. Saturday and became tornadic after entering Pawnee County. The thunderstorm also spawned at least two other weak tornados.
Five farms were damaged by the tornado, including Hammeke’s farm house that lost its roof and exterior walls. Numerous trees were snapped and limbs broken along the tornado route. Several electrical line wood poles were broken.
Jeff Hutton, Dodge City meteorologist, said Josh Wurman confirmed EF4 winds with a Doppler on Wheels system coordinated by the Center for Severe Weather Research from Boulder, Colo. Peak intensity was measured just north of K-156 by the Doppler system several miles southwest of the tornado.
“They measured near-ground EF4 velocity for about 10 minutes,” Hutton said. “Had that EF4 hit the town of Rozel, there is no doubt every building in town would have substantial damage. Fortunately, it missed the town.”
Mark Wagner, Pawnee County emergency manager, reported numerous power lines were destroyed and several irrigation pivot systems were damaged.
Dozens of videos were posted from the Rozel tornado, which drew several noteworthy organizations, including personnel from The Weather Channel.
“A lot of the storm chasers will work off of the same weather data, so it’s not unusual that they will all show up in one place,” Wagner said. “We had a lot of people out there watching. Seeing the wall cloud was an impressive sight.”
Wagner said the number of storm chasers created traffic issues on the rural Pawnee County roads.
“At some point, they became a problem because I know some roads were getting blocked,” Wagner said. “It was certainly a dangerous situation driving on back roads with minimum maintenance.”
Rozel tornado videos