Douglas County cleaning up after overnight storm

Utility crews inspect the roof of Whelan's Lumber, 1516 W 6th St., which blew onto Florida St. after a powerful storm slammed Lawrence early Friday morning, May 2, 2008. The roof took down power lines and damaged neighboring property.

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Residents in Lawrence and the surrounding area are assessing damage and cleaning up Friday morning after a severe thunderstorm struck shortly after 1 a.m.

Many trees and buildings were damaged during the storm, including a mobile home in North Lawrence that was hit by a falling tree and Langston Hughes Elementary School, where about one-third of the gymnasium roof blew off. In addition, a tin roof blew off a Whelan’s Lumber storage building at 1516 W. Sixth St. and remains on the road on Florida Street.

Just what was that?

Indications are that Douglas County experienced straight line winds in excess of 80 mph, said 6News Chief Meteorologist Jennifer Schack.

And 6News Meteorologist Matt Elwell says that the National Weather Service in Topeka has only received reports of damage from straight line winds. There has been no confirmation that any tornadoes touched down.

The National Weather Service has teams out Friday morning to assess damage in eastern Kansas. Official storm assessments are expected to be filed by early Friday afternoon.

Brush drop-off site open

Due to tree damage created from Friday morning’s storm, the City of Lawrence’s brush drop-off site will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday through Monday.

There will be no charge for drop off during this period at the site, 1420 E. 11th St.

All wood debris, tree limbs and brush from citizens’ private property will be accepted, but no leaves or trash will be taken. The limbs will be chipped and used as mulch throughout the city.

Private tree materials not taken to the drop-off site must be properly bundled and placed with trash for removal. It will then be taken to the landfill. Bundles for refuse pickup should not exceed 5 feet in length, 18 inches in diameter or 65 pounds per bundle.

For more information, call the Lawrence Parks and Recreation Department, 832-3450.

The loud boom

When Friday morning’s storm ripped through Lawrence, it literally ripped through Paul Brandenburger’s living room.

And his master bathroom. A tree struck his house, cracking the trusses, sending water cascading through the ceiling throughout his house.

As Brandenburger, a Kansas University graduate student, was working on a paper about 1 a.m., his wife came out of the bedroom as a loud boom echoed through their house.

The tree – though they didn’t know it at the time.

“My wife took the kids downstairs and I went to go look for a flashlight,” he said. “I walked into our bedroom and all of the sudden there was water coming in from the master bathroom. That wasn’t good. Then when I walked into the living room, there was more.”

The ceilings caved in this morning.

Brandenburger said a tree service and restoration company were at his house already Friday morning working to repair the damage. He’s been in contact with his insurance companies but had no idea how much all the damage would cost. The only bill he’s gotten already, though, is for the tree removal: $900.

Now all he needs is bills to repair the damage to the structure of his house, his roof, replace insulation in his attic and rebuild the ceilings. Oh, and he’ll need some money for his family’s cars. Those were hit by the tree, too.

In the dark

The storm blew out power to as many as 8,700 Westar Energy customers in Douglas County. But as of 3:30 p.m. Friday, that number was down to about 210. In Leavenworth County, about 1,630 Westar customers were without power at 3:30 p.m.

Steve Foss, general manager of Leavenworth-Jefferson Electric Cooperative, said that up to 400 customers were without power over night. However, by 8:30 a.m., nearly all customers’ power was restored – with only five outages reported. Those customers are north of Tonganoxie in Leavenworth County.

“Overall, I’d say we came out pretty good,” Foss said.

Classes at Langston Hughes started on schedule Friday morning, but in the Wellsville school district, the start of classes was delayed by two hours – to 9:45 a.m. – because district buildings lost electricity during the storm.

Langston Hughes physical education teacher Reenie Stogsdill said that when she came to work Friday morning, water was on the gym floor, which was beginning to buckle.

Tumbling trees

The tree that fell on the mobile home on Perry Street in North Lawrence damaged the home so severely that the family who lives there was set up at the Holidome, according to Jane Blocher of the Douglas County chapter of the American Red Cross.

Carole Staus, who has lived northeast of Peterson and Folks roads since 1964, said at least three trees on her property were down.

“These are probably the worst winds that we’ve had since I’ve been out here,” she said.

In Baldwin

Baldwin resident Mike Brungardt had called the city on Thursday about a tree in his front yard, concerned that if the old tree went, it would take out a power line. He watched in amazement around 1:15 a.m. Friday when half that scenario played out.

“I looked out and it was hanging over the lines and was going,” said Brungardt. “Then, the tree did a pirouette and fell where it is. It missed almost everything. It didn’t take the power line and didn’t hit any of the planters. It did take the cable line and that little maple tree, but Mary (his wife) said that’s OK.

“The Lord works in strange and mysterious ways,” he said.

A few blocks south of there, Ed and Phyllis Booth lost a 30-foot Bradford pear tree. The wind, hail and rain was whipping around their home at 1016 Jersey so much that they didn’t hear anything when the tree snapped like kindling.

“It was so noisy,” said Ed Booth. “We couldn’t hear anything. When I looked out in the back yard, it looked different, but I didn’t know why. Then I realized the Bradford pear was gone.

“The wind was going 80 mph,” said Booth. “We only got seven-tenths (of rain), but the rain was going sideways.”

There were also reports of barn damage at Blake McCall’s home at 1474 N. 300 Road and other wind damage at Alden Bradley’s home three miles east of Vinland.

Soccer rescheduled

Wind damage at Free State High’s soccer field forced the school to postpone Friday afternoon’s scheduled match with Leavenworth.

Portions of a fence were knocked down by the overnight storm, FSHS athletic director Mike Hill said. The match has not been rescheduled.

Meanwhile, the Firebirds’ scheduled soccer match against Olathe North on Thursday night at ODAC was called off because of lightning and rescheduled for next Wednesday.

In Tonganoxie

The storm knocked out power in Tonganoxie for an estimated two to three hours Friday morning, according to Tonganoxie City Fire Department Capt. John Callaghan.

“About a third to half of town was without power,” he said.

Mainly, Callaghan noted, firefighters dealt with electrical issues, including a power line that went down and energized a chain-link fence.

“We babysat that for a couple hours before the power company could get there and disconnect it,” Callaghan said.