December wind storm causes major damage locally, across state
In Kansas, the obvious choice for weather in December is a gentle snowfall; however, this past week Mother Nature had something else in mind for the month of December. On Wednesday, Dec. 15, strong winds and thunderstorms swept across Kansas causing tree damage and wildfires to wreak havoc on homes and pastures, alike. In addition to the damage caused throughout the Sunflower State, many citizens were left without power due to downed power lines and transformers blowing.
According to Nemaha County Emergency Management Director Russell Lierz, Nemaha County had sustained wind gusts of 30-35 miles per hour (MPH)
throughout the day. However, the top wind speed was 73 MPH.
Lierz reported damages in Nemaha County included damage to tin buildings, tree damage and broken power poles. Lierz also reported a power outage in Centralia and a partial power outage in Seneca due to blown transformers.
In addition to the damage, a tornado warning issued at 4:10 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 15, for the Corning and Goff area. The tornado warning was issued due to radar-indicated rotation; however, Lierz confirmed Friday, Dec. 17, there was no tornado, just straight-line winds. A tornado watch remained in affect until 8 p.m. for Nemaha and Brown counties.
Nemaha County also had three semi tractor trailers get blown off the road. According to Lierz, one accident occurred on U.S. Highway 36 in front of the Willows in Seneca; one occurred on U.S. Highway 36, just west of Kansas 187; and one at U.S. Highway 36 and Kansas Highway 63 South. The Kansas Highway Patrol worked all of these accidents, which resulted in only minor injuries.
“I want to give a shout-out to all the fire departments, dispatchers, police officers and to the sheriff’s office for everyone’s help,” Lierz said. “Everyone worked together very well.”
According to Brown County Sheriff John Merchant, wind gusts of 90 plus miles per hour were estimated.
“Brown County endured some of the worst weather conditions that we have experienced in many years,” Sheriff Merchant said. “Winds were so strong that emergency personnel could not open their doors unless they positioned their vehicles downwind.”
Sheriff Merchant said the storm caused significant losses to many Brown County residents, as high winds persisted for many hours with heavy rain, lightning and hail for a short period of time. In Brown County, the storm caused trees and debris to blow on to homes, which caused damage to roofs, sheds, barns and outbuildings being destroyed, overturned vehicles, downed electrical lines, and more.
“In several areas of the county, semis were blown over in the roadways, as well as residents reporting their vehicles overturned due to the high winds,” Sheriff Merchant said. “Power outages were reported throughout most areas of the county. Several areas were reporting fences down and livestock being rounded up.”
According to Sheriff Merchant, no fatalities or major injuries have been reported.
“As a county, we are very blessed that we have dedicated emergency services, personnel and individuals who tirelessly help others when emergency situations such as this arise,” Sheriff Merchant said. “Many county residents helped clear roadways of downed trees and debris, provided assistance to friends and neighbors, and helped warn motorists of downed power lines on the roads. Our dispatchers were flooded with calls for many hours and did a wonderful job of notifying emergency personnel to areas where immediate response was needed. Many calls were made to utility companies notifying them of power outages and downed lines. Deputies were at all ends of the county working though different emergency situations. I appreciate everyone for their assistance and patience during this catastrophic event and hope we never have to go through this again.”
High winds across Kansas, due to the storm, caused widespread damage, including:
• Multiple traffic signs across the state were knocked down or sheared off. Work began to replace missing signs, while overall assessments began of the numbers of signs down. Repair and replacement of signs could take time. The Kansas Department of Transportation areas that did not have signs affected are providing materials and assistance, but many lost or damaged signs will have to be ordered and produced. Northeast and southeast Kansas had minimal losses, and most of the missing signs have been able to be replaced in those areas.
• Evergy Crews responded to multiple power outages, throughout the state, in order to restore power to affected customers.
• Wildfires spread across western and central Kansas due to the high winds. The Kansas Army National Guard and the Kansas Forest Service deployed aerial assets to assist with fire suppression efforts in multiple counties.
In addition to the damage, multiple roadways in western Kansas were closed due to high winds, low visibility and car accidents. Roads that were closed include Interstate 70 from the Colorado state line to Russell; all state routes in Cheyenne, Decatur, Gove, Logan, Rawlins, Sheridan, Sherman, Thomas and Wallace counties; U.S. Highway 54 at milepost 33, approximately three miles east of Plains in Meade County; all highway out of Ulysses; Kansas Highway 25 at milepost 38 in Grant County; Kansas Highway 25 in the city of Lakin; U.S. Highway 83, about seven miles south of Garden City; Kansas Highway 96 from the Colorado State line to Kansas Highway 27 at Tribune; and U.S. Highway 50 from Kansas Highway 27 to Kansas Highway 25.
At approximately 5:40 p.m., Interstate 70 was reopened in both directions.
According to Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, the storm damage across Kansas could attract illegal contractors.
“After storm damage, our instinct is to clean up and make repairs as quickly as possible,” Schmidt said. “Unfortunately, fraudulent contractors often rush into storm-damaged areas to take advantage of local residents in their time of need. It’s important to keep your guard up to avoid becoming victimized again by a scammer.”
In particular, Schmidt reminded residents that, with few exceptions, roofing contractors operating in Kansas are required to register with the attorney general’s office. The requirement to register with the attorney general’s office is in addition to any other local requirements that may be imposed by cities or counties. The online directory of registrations is available at www.InYourCornerKansas.org.
The attorney general’s office also recommends the following tips in dealing with any transient contractors, including roofers:
• Get recommendations and references.
• Get at least three written estimates from different contractors.
• Check contractor complaint records with the Better Business Bureau.
• Understand your payment options and right to cancel.
• Be sure your contractor is insured.
• Document all agreements in writing, including a written contract detailing the scope of work, the quality of materials that will be used, warranties, timetables, the names of any subcontractors, the total price of the job and the schedule of payments.
Any Kansans who have problems with roofing contractors or other companies that follow storms may file a request for the attorney general’s Consumer Protection Division to investigate at 800-432-2310 or http://www.inyourcornerkansas.org/. The attorney general requests that Kansans promptly report any unregistered person or company attempting to sell roofing services.