Early morning thunderstorm downs trees, knocks out power in Lawrence, northeast Kansas

photo by: Elvyn Jones

Neighbors pitch in Saturday morning, June 2, 2018, to remove a downed tree on 21st Terrace just west of Ousdahl Road. The neighborhood has numerous downed branches and trees from an early morning storm that blow through Lawrence.

City crews were working Saturday throughout Lawrence to clean up after an early morning storm packing winds as strong as 60 mph blew through Lawrence and northeast Kansas.

In a statement Saturday morning, the city said employees from the streets, parks and recreation and utilities departments were working to clear downed trees and limbs from public streets, city rights of way and public sidewalks. Those with downed trees or limbs in streets or rights of way are asked to call the city’s forestry division at 785-832-7979. City employees cannot remove trees or limbs from private property.

The city’s brush site at 1420 E. 11th Street will be open from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday for residents to drop off tree branches. More information about the City’s Solid Waste Division can be found at lawrenceks.org/swm.

Starting Monday, crews from the city solid waste division will pick up tree branches and other storm debris with regularly scheduled residential collection routes. Tree branches and other yard waste material should be set out in city yard waste carts or compostable paper yard waste bags, sticking out no more than 12 inches above the container. Bundles of tree and brush trimmings are also accepted. Each bundle must not exceed 5 feet in length or 18 inches in diameter and must not weigh more than 65 pounds. Bundles must be tied with string or twine; wire, duct tape or other binding materials are not acceptable.

Westar Energy, the Topeka-based electric utility that serves large parts of Douglas County, reported widespread power outages from Manhattan to the Kansas City metropolitan area. As of about 8:15 a.m., the Westar power outage website reported that a little more than 6,000 customers in northeast Kansas were without power as a result of the storm.

Jana Dawson, a spokeswoman for Westar, said Saturday afternoon that there were numerous customers without power in Lawrence, but she didn’t have an estimate of how many. The Lawrence outages were localized, with each affecting a small number of customers and not whole neighborhoods, she said.

Because of the large number of outages in Lawrence and elsewhere in northeast Kansas, the utility company was in “storm mode,” Dawson said.

“With so many customers without power, it’s going to take more time to get everyone restored,” she said. “Typically, we attack those outages that affect the most customers, and then work our way down.”

Westar does give priority to those with special circumstances, such as downed power lines that pose a fire hazard or outages that prevent people from using necessary medical equipment, Dawson said.

“If there is a safety hazard, customers need to make note of that when reporting an outage on our website,” she said. “Lawrence law enforcement is very good about informing us of those circumstances.”

The Westar Twitter page said because of the widespread nature of the storm, power would not be restored to some customers until 6 a.m. Sunday.

Bryan Baerg, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Topeka, said a complex of strong thunderstorms rolled through northeast Kansas early Saturday morning. Strong winds of from 40 to 50 mph associated with the storm arrived in Lawrence about 4:20 a.m. and continued until about 5 a.m.. A 60 mph wind gust was recorded at 4:40 a.m. at the official weather station at the Lawrence Municipal Airport.

The fact that tree limbs of 8 inches in diameter were broken during the storm was consistent with straight-line winds of 40 to 60 mph, Baerg said.

Baerg said the cool front that touched off the storm will keep temperatures in the 80s with low humidity the rest of weekend.

“It’s going to be a beautiful weekend,” he said. “It will be quite a relief from the mid- to high 90s we’ve had the last couple of days.”


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