North Lawrence cleaning up in wake of Saturday storm

A tree at 212 North Fourth uprooted during Saturday's storm crushed a pickup and damaged a neighboring house. The National Weather Service in Topeka said winds that may have been as strong as 70 mph caused the extensive damage in North Lawrence.

Glen Olson is taking exception with the official account of the storm that blew through North Lawrence shortly at about 4 p.m. Saturday.

“They said it wasn’t a microburst,” he said. “There was a limb from my neighbor’s yard that broke and took out my back fence 30 feet away. That’s a microburst.”

Olson said large limbs from a sycamore tree in the front yard of his home in the 200 block of North Sixth Street broke the rear window of the SUV his wife, Meredith Lemon, had parked in the driveway and caused damages to other vehicles. Nonetheless, Olson was counting himself as lucky because there were those in North Lawrence who had far worse damage. He also had his power restored at about 7 a.m.

The 400 block of Lincoln Street was one of three North Lawrence streets still blocked Sunday morning from downed trees and tree limbs. Dave Kraus, city street field supervisor, said city crews worked from 5 p.m. to midnight Saturday to remove debris from streets following the storm.

Shawn Byrne, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Topeka, said the NWS has damage reports but no wind speed estimates from the storm. There could have been wind speeds of up to 70 mph associated with the storm, but there was no microburst, he said.

About six blocks away from Olson’s home, Tosha Smart was assessing the damage to the 400 block of Lincoln Street. The block remained closed to traffic because of downed trees and limbs, and the homes on the north side of the block, including hers, were without power, although it had been restored on the south side, she said.

“The lines are in the alley in the back,” she said of the power lines to her house. “They are all on the ground under tree limbs. It’s a mess.”

A Westar Energy crew replaces a downed transmission pole Sunday morning at Fourth and Locust streets. Saturday's storm caused widespread power outages in North Lawrence. Westar's online power outage map says the company would restore power to all customers by 11 p.m. Sunday.

Westar Energy crews were working Sunday morning in North Lawrence to restore power. As of 1 p.m., Westar’s online outage map indicated 417 customers were still without power in the Lawrence area and said the company expects to have power restored to all customers by 11 p.m.

Smart said a large cottonwood tree was uprooted on the east side of her lawn and caused damage to a house two doors down. She didn’t see it fall because she rode out the storm in Lyons Park, hiding under a picnic table to escape flying debris, she said.

As Smart related her storm story, Dave Kraus, a street field supervisor with the City of Lawrence, walked the 400 block of Lincoln Street to share information on the city’s cleanup efforts with residents. A city crew would make a pass through the street to open the roadway Sunday morning, he said. But he assured residents that city crews would be back to remove other large limbs and debris throughout the coming week. He asked that they bring any debris they could move as close as possible to the street for removal.

The 400 block of Lincoln was one of three streets in North Lawrence still closed as of Sunday morning, Kraus said. City crews worked from about 5 p.m. to midnight Saturday to open streets and started again at 8:30 a.m Sunday, he said.

North Lawrence sustained the worst damage from the storm, but limbs were also downed in the Pinckney neighborhood and near Lawrence Memorial Hospital, Kraus said.

The city compost yard at 1420 E. 11th St. would be open and free to the public until 3 p.m. Sunday, Kraus said.

In a Sunday morning news release, the city asked residents to bundle debris for pickup in compostable paper waste bags or in bundles tied with string or twine. Bundles should not exceed 5 feet in length, weigh more than 65 pounds or be more than 18 inches in diameter, the release said.

The city also reminded residents that it can only remove debris from streets or city right-of-way. Those wanting to report tree damage are asked to called the city’s forestry division at 785-832-7979.