Archive for Wednesday, September 12, 2001

Storm a Friday-night fright

65-mph winds knock out power, leaving diners, fans in the dark

September 12, 2001

A storm that blew through Leavenworth County Friday night left restaurant diners eating by candlelight and ended a road football game at halftime.

"It was pretty wild, it blew pretty good," said Harry Morgan, hydrometerologist technician at the National Weather Service, Pleasant Hill, Mo.

The straight-line winds raged through Tonganoxie at 65 miles per hour, as shards of lighting pierced the sky and winds ripped limbs from trees.

Dee Stone, owner of Outback Video, 518 E. Fourth St., said the storm sent her packing at about 8:30 p.m.

"My lights didn't go out, but it was storming so bad and the lightning was striking so close," Stone said. "I saw sparks fly behind Richard Smith's accounting office and I saw the wind take the tree down on Fourth Street, so I just locked up and went home."

About a half block away, diners at Bichelmeyer's steakhouse completed their dinners in what some might say is a more romantic lighting candlelight and the pianist continued playing, said Matt Bichelmeyer. About 100 diners were in Bichelmeyer's when the power went off. The restaurant, however, is set up on a backup system so that some lighting remained.

"We have gas stoves, so the food went on cooking," Bichelmeyer said.

The power was off for about 45 minutes, Bichelmeyer said.

Daniel Hipsher, owner of Daniel's Barbecue, said the storm disrupted his usually heavy Friday night crowd at his restaurant on U.S. Highway 24-40.

"I don't know if it was the lack of power or everybody knowing there was a big storm coming," Hipsher said. "But it probably took a third of the business off."

Tonganoxie High's football game also was disrupted by the storm. The game was halted at the half and resumed Saturday afternoon. All in all, it worked out fine for Tonganoxie. The Chieftains chalked up a win against Immaculata, 22-8.

Mark Schreiber, community relations manager for Kansas Power and Light, said the storm knocked out about 350 Tonganoxie-area customers. Most of the electrical service was restored by 1 a.m., he said.

Most of the electrical outages were caused by wind rather than lightning, Schreiber said.

KP&L customers are encouraged to call the company's automated hotline, 1-800-544-4857, when electrical service is disrupted.

"The number of calls we get gives us an idea of the size of an outage," Schreiber said. "We'd like for everybody to call in when their power goes out."

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