A Friday afternoon thunderstorm pelted parts of southern Douglas County with baseball-sized hail and spawned winds strong enough to topple a utility pole that blocked traffic on U.S. Highway 59 for more than an hour.
The storm began brewing about 3:30 p.m. and rained down as much as 4.5 inches of precipitation in the Baldwin area between 3:45 p.m. and 4:30 p.m., said Bill Newman of the National Weather Service in Topeka.
Reported wind gusts of up to 70 mph were the likely culprit in a line of damage along U.S. Highway 59 just north of Baldwin Junction. That's where a utility pole that started out standing on the east side of the road ended up lying across the highway about 4:15 p.m., blocking both lanes of traffic, Douglas County Sheriff's Lt. Kathy Tate said.
Sheriff's deputies redirected vehicles away from the live wires while Westar Energy crews repaired the pole. The road reopened after an hour and a half, Tate said.
Westar Energy spokeswoman Jo Beilman said the downed lines had left 164 customers in the area between North 700 Road and the Douglas-Franklin county line and East 800 and East 1200 roads without electricity for several hours. Westar dispatchers took the first outage report at 4:35 p.m. and had restored power to 90 customers by 7 p.m., Beilman said. Power to remaining customers was up shortly after 9:30 p.m.
Baldwin resident Roger Boyd encountered the traffic stall near the downed line as he left Baldwin to head to Lawrence. He said it looked almost like the work of a microburst, a small-scale severe storm downdraft.
"Just west of that we saw a barn or shed that was missing its roof and the tin was all over the people's front yard," he said. "All the trees were split. We saw several fields where the grass was just flat on the ground."
High winds also took out a barn near the intersection of North 400 and East 1100 roads, Tate said.
Newman said the weather service received reports of baseball-sized hail in Baldwin, but no hail damage could be confirmed Friday night.
Boyd said 1.45 inches of rain fell where he lives in eastern Baldwin. However, reports of 3 to 4.5 inches of precipitation in other parts of southern Douglas County prompted the weather service to issue a flash-flood warning about 4:45 p.m.
The skies above Lawrence clouded over and winds picked up briefly, but the storm skirted southeast of the city.
Although the passing storm cooled the area slightly, steamy weather is expected to return today with a high temperature of 100 degrees, 6News meteorologist Ross Janssen said.