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Column: Heavy rain, 80 mph winds, don’t they call that a hurricane?
At The Mike
Mike - At the Mike
Mike Marzolf

So, wow, huh?

I had a pretty good Sunday going. I had just returned home from Beloit to visit my Mom as she saw her grandson Wade for the first time. That was going to be the main story of the column. But that changed somewhere around 6 pm Sunday night.

That is when all, well, heck broke loose in town. Was there a tornado or not, I guess I don’t care about wording. A look at the damage tells me no. Most things blew to the south. I’m going with a hurricane.

With wind speeds perhaps as high as 80 mph winds (I think higher) and heavy rain, that is a Category 1 hurricane. Of course those are based on sustained wind speeds and storm surge and what not, but for a while it felt hurricane’ish’.

At a minimum it was an impressive looking supercell. Very impressive as I watched footage on Youtube. A supercell that did prompt a tornado warning for the area.

Great Bend has responded fantastically with all the support from volunteers around town as well as the City itself taking the step of picking up storm debris. That is no small task.

I remember one summer I worked for the City of Glen Elder and a storm hit. We went around and picked up limbs from the curb and it took us two or three days. Granted we only had six workers, two dump trucks and one tractor, but it was only for like 400 folks.

Great Bend is a bit bigger than Glen Elder. Just a bit.

The Tornado Siren

As I talked with people Sunday night into Monday one thing was stated quite often - there were no tornado sirens. Barton County 911 Communications have since put out a statement explaining why that happened.

That’s cool, but we need the sirens to work when they are needed. I’m not here to judge any of what happened with the sirens. Legit attempts were made to sound them. Several attempts. From there it is mechanical. This was at 6:05 pm.

So let’s deal with the mechanical. Is there a way to test them with frequency? There has to be. Even if on a rotating basis. I come from a much smaller town in Glen Elder but its tornado siren is also the noon whistle blown every Monday thru Friday.

It gets tested nearly every day. On a side note it’s also the fire whistle to alert the volunteer fireman or a meeting or a fire. Let’s just hope there is no fire right at noon during the week, right?

And Finally

On the trip home from Beloit was the first glimpse of bad weather. As the kids got them some pizza and drinks at Casey’s in Beloit, alerts started coming in.

Not to worry, I told them. We are going south, everything is headed south and east. We won’t get anything. Wade will be fine. And we didn’t on the way home. We got home about 5:30 pm. I told them even then, as my phone was telling me tornado warnings were being issued in the area, that it was going to be to the east of us. Not to worry.

Okay, so I missed that one. Boy did I miss that one.

It started with just a few small hailstones. Pea-sized. Then it got a little bigger and faster. By this time my daughter Kinlsey had come upstairs. She knew we were in a tornado warning.

She watched out on the deck with me as the rain grew heavier, the hailstones got bigger and the wind kicked up stronger. By this time the hail was just shy of tennis ball sized. You could hear it pounding. Then a shatter. The glass on one of our storm windows on the north side broke.

As you looked out the front window to the north you could hardly see the street. Is this a tornado? Kinsley asked. Should we be in the basement? I could tell she was getting nervous. So were the dogs. I told her to go to the basement. The smart person I am, stayed upstairs.

About this time a branch landed on the deck as the rain continued to come down sideways. Finally the storm began to let up. It was about this time the electricity went out. It had survived a good portion of the storm but eventually gave in.

As the rain slowed to a drizzle and the wind let up, I went out to check things out. Just down my driveway and to the front yard I could see a lot of damage around me. Especially a couple blocks away as the roof from the First Southern Baptist Church lay on Harrison street.

For myself, the biggest things were the one broken storm window and a branch on my deck. Fortunate.

Then, well, you know, I had to know more. As I returned to the house, Kinsley had come back upstairs. I told her I was going for a drive. She wanted to go.

Yeah, I know stay home and stay out of the way. I was doing research for my column. That’s it.

Almost immediately we began to see uprooted trees. Wow. Just the area around the middle school probably had close to 10 or so. It was also pretty obvious everything was blown to the south. A straight-line wind. Not rotation. At least what I saw.

As we headed to the east side of town I happened to drive by a friend of mine’s house in Steve Divis. The big, beautiful tree in his back yard was uprooted. That had to be a good wind to take it by the roots. It had a huge trunk.

As we drove by the radio station, I saw another buddy, Mike Hesher outside. I chatted with him a bit. He told me it was 90 mph winds. Then he said Webster’s sun porch lost its windows.

That would be one of my best friends, Steve Webster. We headed to his house, but had to turn and dodge debris. Most streets were only navigable for a few blocks before you had to detour another direction. It was kind of like being in a game of Pac Man. Or Mrs. Pac Man like we had at the game room in Glen Elder.

We zig-zagged our way to Steve’s. He and his lovely wife Deb were outside so we stopped and chatted. They had softball-sized hail on the west side of town at his house. He even filmed it on his covered patio for a while. Then, probably after he should have gone in, he finally did. Through the sun porch. Just as hail was taking out his windows in said sun porch.

As we drove the west side a bit it was obvious the hail did more damage there. There were numerous house windows broken as well as car windows in this area. We also stopped and chatted with the great Lyles Lashley for a bit. He, like me, avoided serious damage.

By the time our information research drive was over we probably saw some 30 or so uprooted trees, I would say over 100 broken windows and in the neighborhood of 10 roofs blown off. We also saw a house not far from the middle school where a tree fell and split it in half.

Of course the obvious visual was all the down branches and debris from trees. Everywhere.

We were fortunate enough to be some of the folks that got our electricity back Sunday night. I think a couple different sections on the west of Washington got power back and we were in the second group.

Just another relaxing Sunday night.

Mike Marzolf is a guest columnist for the Great Bend Tribune. His views don’t necessarily reflect those of tha paper. He can be reached at marzolf13@ yahoo. com.