Archive for Monday, March 25, 1996

HAILSTORM SURPRISES RESIDENTS, DAMAGES CARS

March 25, 1996

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Monday's hailstorm caught local residents by surprise and kept emergency crews busy.

A storm dropping pea- to golfball-sized hail damaged cars, downed power lines and generated a lightning strike that sparked a house fire Monday afternoon.

"It got us real good," said Bill Norton, financial director at Laird Noller Motors, 23rd and Alabama. "We had hail all over the place here."

The storm struck about 5:45 p.m. and appeared to intensify over the city before ending about 30 minutes later.

Additional storms unofficially dumped a total of 1.06 inches of rain Monday, according to a downtown rain gauge at Sunflower Cablevision, Sixth and New Hampshire.

Although the area had been under a tornado watch, no severe thunderstorm warning was issued for Lawrence, and the hail caught many by surprise.

"Nobody knew it was coming," Norton said. "Heck, it was sunny one minute and then it's hailing."

A lightning strike during the storm started a fire in the attic of a home at 1025 Conn. The home was unoccupied, however, firefighters said.

Damage was estimated at $10,000 to $15,000.

The storm also knocked a power line across a southbound lane of the 2400 block of Iowa, causing traffic problems for several minutes.

City crews also were working to repair traffic signals at several other intersections that lost power, police said.

Gene Ortner, sales manager at Crown Automotive, 3400 Iowa, said the hail appeared to be smaller in the southern sections of town.

"We probably had marble-sized," he said. "We had a little damage, but not much. We lucked out so far."

A few blocks north, Joel Ellena, executive manager of the Jim Ellena Autoplex, 29th and Iowa, said every car was damaged by marble-sized hail.

"I'd say it's all minor to medium," he said.

Golfball-sized hail was reported near Clinton Parkway and Kasold, with smaller hail elsewhere in the city and county, said Terry Guenther, assistant coordinator of Douglas County Emergency Management.

Automobile dealership managers said Monday's storm wasn't nearly as bad as a hailstorm in 1991 that caused an estimated $22 million in damage.

Elsewhere, Jefferson County reported golfball-sized hail at its southeast corner. No other significant hail was reported in surrounding counties.

The storms were the result of a cold front moving through the area.

Today's forecast called for a slight chance of rain in the morning with highs in the mid-40s. Wednesday was forecast to be mostly sunny with a high near 60.

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