Storm blows through area

Tornado, winds cause damage, several close calls

From left, Beverly Nicholson, Leland Sales and Bob Bowen clean up Nicholson and Bowen’s farm at 1350 E. 250 Road after hurricane-force winds blew throught the area in May 2008.

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Debris disposal

Due to tree damage from Friday’s storm, Lawrence’s brush drop-off site will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. today 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 residents’ private property will be accepted, but no leaves or trash will be taken. For more information, call 832-3450.

Tina McIver ducked under a love seat in her living room around 1:30 a.m. Friday as the wind howled outside.

“It was just a big roar, and the whole house shook,” she said.

At the home west of Clinton Lake, McIver, her roommate, Brenna Muntzert, Muntzert’s two children and their dog took shelter from a storm that rocked parts of Douglas County.

An automated text message McIver received from The Weather Channel tipped her off to take shelter.

“Without that, I don’t know that we would have woke up in time,” McIver said.

They were not hurt, but the rental home sustained roof and front porch damage. By Friday morning, the path of the strong winds could be seen clearly on the property along East 250 Road about 1 mile south of Stull Road in western Douglas County.

Another rental home more than 100 yards to the north – a vacant, newly remodeled house owned by Richard and Judy Holder – was mostly flattened.

“It looks like a tornado hit it. It’s completely gone,” Richard Holder said of the 2,000-square-foot home.

Just what was it?

Holder was right. It was a tornado.

The National Weather Service reported Friday night that its inspection teams determined that a tornado did touch down for a short amount of time early Friday morning northwest of Clinton Lake. The tornado struck at 1:04 a.m. and remained on the ground for about two minutes before lifting about four miles northwest of Clinton Lake.

The weather service said the tornado traveled on the ground on a two-mile path and was – at its largest – 100 yards wide.

6News Chief Meteorologist Jennifer Schack said after the tornado reintegrated with the storm overhead, strong winds hammered the city of Lawrence. Wind speeds were reported in excess of 80 mph, Schack said.

The storm struck the area without warning from Douglas County outdoor warning sirens, causing damage to homes and businesses, and even the gymnasium roof at Langston Hughes Elementary School. In addition, a tin roof blew off a Whelan’s Lumber storage building at 1516 W. Sixth St. and landed in the 500 block of Florida Street.

No storm-related injuries were reported, but many residents were without power, as toppled trees brought down power lines.

A close call

One tree, estimated by Westar Energy linemen to weigh at least 10,000 pounds, uprooted and crashed into a mobile home on Perry Street in North Lawrence.

It smashed into the bedroom of the home during the storm, but the occupants were in a different area of the house, said Lawrence-Douglas County Fire and Medical Division Chief Eve Tolefree.

“If he would’ve been in that bed, that’s where it hit, but he was watching TV in the living room, thank God,” said next door neighbor Timothy Cradick. “That’s what saved him. If he would’ve been laying in that bed, that’s worse. The whole bedroom’s gone.”

The family who lives there was set up at the Lawrence Holidome, according to Jane Blocher of the Douglas County chapter of the American Red Cross.

Just feet away, Cradick slept in his bed. He awoke to the strong winds blowing DVDs across his room.

‘A great, big boom’

Rural Stull residents Hayden and Ann Wood received a rude awakening around 1:10 a.m. Friday when a stock trailer slammed into their roof.

“It was just a great, big boom. I jumped out of bed, and I couldn’t figure out what happened,” said Hayden Wood, 88, a longtime Douglas County rancher and retired rural mail carrier.

Thankfully, they were not injured. The trailer did create a hole above part of their garage and a spare bedroom at their house, 1426 E. 150 Road. The garage partly flooded, but family and friends helped patch the hole Friday morning.

As they waited for an insurance adjuster, the couple said they thought they could still stay at home while repairs are made.

The storm’s path also reached into northwestern Lawrence, as several businesses sustained damage along Sixth Street. Several trees didn’t survive.

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

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

‘A really loud roar’

Mary and Bill Graham were shaken awake by the storm about 1:30 a.m. Friday. The couple live about five miles west of Lawrence in a mobile home near Mary Graham’s business, White Oak Ranch.

“My husband and I live out here in a fifth wheel while we wait to build our house and we felt our trailer move about an inch and a half during the storm,” she said. “We heard a really loud roar, but we had no idea all this damage had happened until we got up this morning.”

Becky Buchanan, a Lawrence resident who teaches horseback riding lessons at White Oak, said the wind took the cover off their indoor arena and twisted the trusses.

Farther west – about 2 1/2 miles south of Stull – Bob Bowen and sister Beverly Nicholson’s family barn was a total loss. Bowen said he heard the strongest winds he’s ever heard that totaled the barn and a granary on their family farm.

Langston Hughes

The first phone call parents at Langston Hughes School, 1101 George Williams Way, likely received Friday morning was from Principal Lisa Williams-Thompson.

About half of the school gym’s roof insulation and tar paper blew off in the storm. Water leaked onto the western side of the gym floor.

“You can’t see the sky, but you can see where the floor’s starting to buckle already because of the water damage,” said Maureen Stogsdill, the school’s physical education teacher.

Williams-Thompson used the district’s new notification system that allows administrators to send an automated message to all parents in seconds. She said they would have school Friday.

Administrators made some adjustments: physical education and music classes met in the same room, Williams-Thompson said.

District custodial and grounds crews went to work early in the morning to clear debris and put a temporary cover on the gym’s roof. The district also called a construction crew to help.

“It looked really bad, but I’ve heard comments from them saying it’s cleaning up pretty easily,” Williams-Thompson said.

Tom Bracciano, the district’s division director for operations and facility planning, said at Sunset Hill School, 901 Schwarz Road, students and staff worked without electricity until just before noon Friday. He said the school opened on time. A large tree at Pinckney School, 810 W. Sixth St., sustained damage; the district received no other reports of major damage, Bracciano said.

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.

It was 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 later.

Brandenburger’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 are 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 10 p.m. Friday, that number was down to about 90. In Leavenworth County, about 1,125 Westar customers remained without power at 10 p.m.

Steve Foss, general manager of Leavenworth-Jefferson Electric Cooperative, said that up to 400 customers were without power overnight. 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.

Blowing boats

The storm shifted between 200 and 300 boats at Arnie’s Boat Sales and Service, north of Lawrence.

“I was real surprised when I came in this morning,” said Keith Morgison, an employee at the boat shop, 2036 E. 1400 Road. The company is north of Midland Junction.

One boat at the store was overturned by strong winds, while others were thrown to different locations at the property. Some were dozens of feet away.

“It’s an act of God and I’m just glad nobody was here and nobody got hurt,” said Linda Morgison, office manager.

South of Arnie’s, damage was evident as Charlie Naramore, a Kansas University sophomore, drove to his childhood home to see numerous trees, American elms and hackberries, uprooted.

Naramore said it was “just trees after trees” that looked as though they fell into the levee facing east.

“It’s really kind of eerie and oppressive driving by,” Naramore said as he drove back to his home in Lawrence.

His parents’ home is surrounded by fallen trees, but “strangely enough,” none fell on the house, he said.