Archive for Wednesday, February 6, 2002

Winter storm packs icy punch

February 6, 2002

Leavenworth County and 24 other Kansas counties have been declared state disaster areas because of damage from last week's winter storm.

Chuck Magaha, the county's emergency management director, hoped the declaration would translate into federal dollars to help finance storm recovery efforts.

Downtown strollers walked carefully last Wednesday on ice-coated
sidewalks. Pictured, center, is Michelle Conroy, followed by her
mother, Pat Conroy. To the left is P.J. Conroy, 7.

Downtown strollers walked carefully last Wednesday on ice-coated sidewalks. Pictured, center, is Michelle Conroy, followed by her mother, Pat Conroy. To the left is P.J. Conroy, 7.

But on Monday afternoon, it wasn't looking good. Magaha calculated an estimated $86,500 in losses to cities, the county and school districts.

"We need $150,000 to get federal assistance to help us out on overtime and vehicle breakdowns, things like that," Magaha said. "It's going to be close."

The storm carried ice and freezing rain, forcing the closure of Tonganoxie schools on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

In addition, two buildings at Masson's Greenhouse near Linwood collapsed about 10:30 p.m. Wednesday because of the weight of ice on the roofs of the buildings. And several barns in the county collapsed.

Sparkling in the morning sun, ice-coated branches on County Road 25
turned the landscape into a winter wonderland.

Sparkling in the morning sun, ice-coated branches on County Road 25 turned the landscape into a winter wonderland.

Despite several power outages in the area, including one in downtown Tonganoxie that lasted about an hour Thursday afternoon, Leavenworth County was not as hard-hit as other areas of eastern Kansas.

"Right now, everybody should be restored in Leavenworth County," said Cynthia MaCarvel, representative of Westar Energy, formerly KPL. "The outages were minor."

Tons of salt and sand

In Tonganoxie, city crews spread about 120 tons of a sand-salt mix on streets on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights, according to Butch Rogers, the city's public works director.

"We were out doing what we could do," he said. "With the ice, the conditions were kind of bad. It was one of those that you couldn't catch up."

Had the storm been packed with snow instead of sleet and ice Rogers said it would have been easier to clean up. He said that city crews were prepared for a long haul, thanks to warning about the approaching storm.

Snow plows rumbled through the parking lot of Tonganoxie High
School late Thursday afternoon.

Snow plows rumbled through the parking lot of Tonganoxie High School late Thursday afternoon.

"On Tuesday, we got prepped," he said. "We had everything ready to go."

County public works crews worked 12-hour shifts last week.

"They worked, and when they got tired, we told them to go home," said Dave Mahoney, county public works director. "There were some of the mechanics and some of the foreman who worked longer."

The sleet and rain hit harder in the southern portion of the county, he said.

"I know for a fact we have more trees down and limbs hanging over in the southern end of the county than we do in the north end," Mahoney said.

A thin sheet of ice coated the flag above the post office Wednesday
afternoon.

A thin sheet of ice coated the flag above the post office Wednesday afternoon.

Crews handle 530 miles of road.

"And we're not flat," Mahoney said. "We try to get the steepest hills first. We want to get the main roads open, and then we start doing all the other roads."

Workers at the U.S. Post Office in Tonganoxie generally were successful in delivering mail, despite the storm.

"They actually did really well," said Ron Hubbard, temporary postmaster. "Since the county didn't have to close any roads for downed power lines, they were able to get through every day."

Treacherous roads were a concern for Tonganoxie school Superintendent Richard Erickson as he called off classes on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. The school chief said the district has about five days remaining that can be used for inclement weather.

"We have about seven or eight built into our schedule, and I'm glad we do," he said. "The ice was really a problem for us danger on the roads and danger up here near the buildings. This was really one of the most difficult storms to clean up from."

Apparently, a power surge on Wednesday or Thursday caused problems for the computer server at the district's central office.

The winter storm dumped enough ice on the roof of Masson's
greenhouse in Linwood to collapse this section.

The winter storm dumped enough ice on the roof of Masson's greenhouse in Linwood to collapse this section.

"It's fried," said Melissa Ostermeyer, secretary.

That will cost the district between $2,000 and $2,500, Erickson said.

Minor outages

Most residents and businesses in Leavenworth County retained electric service, despite the storm. On Wednesday night, 4,062 customers of Leavenworth-Jefferson Electric Cooperative lost power when an insulator broke on a transmission line. The customers, who were north and west of Tonganoxie, were reconnected about three and one-half hours later, said Joe Heinen, member services manager for the cooperative, which serves 7,000 customers.

A few line outages were reported on Thursday, he said.

"We lucked out this time around," Heinen said. "The storm stayed south of us."

The cooperative sent four linemen and two tree trimmers to Altamont, where they helped another cooperative handle outages from the storm.

Tonganoxie city firefighters responded during the day on Thursday to two reports of arcing power lines.

Two days of freezing rain left a thick coating of ice on these
berries.

Two days of freezing rain left a thick coating of ice on these berries.

"It was limbs in power lines that were arcing, causing the trees to burn," said James Payne, deputy fire chief.

All in all, the city was fortunate, he said.

"If anything good came out of the tornado, crews cut trees out of power lines, which saved us from having a lot of problems," he said.

Fairmount Township firefighters responded to three calls Wednesday night in freezing rain.

About 7:30 p.m., a flue fire was reported at 166th Street and Kansas Highway 32. Little damage was reported.

"We responded with two pumpers and an aerial," said Galen Gorup, department public information officer. "We used the aerial, and it was the only safe way to get up on the roof. We were concerned that if we didn't hurry, the aerial would freeze up. We had it extended out about 100 feet, so we had to work fast."

Coming down that ladder was slick work, Gorup said.

About three hours later, firefighters were called to an electrical transformer that had exploded near 155th Street and Ripley in Basehor.

"There's nothing we can do," Gorup said. "If we put water on it, it would be the last time we ever did."

Another flue fire was reported about 11 p.m. in the 20800 block of 166th Street. A small amount of damage was reported.

"It's kind of unusual," Gorup said "We haven't had very many chimney fires, and we had two within four hours and on one of the best nights. They always happen like that, though."

Too much ice

On Thursday, Brad Myhand, who lives northeast of Easton, lost his metal-clad barn as it collapsed under the weight of ice on the roof.

"I don't have the slightest idea why it did it," he said.

Even though he lost a four-wheeler in the collapse, he considered himself fortunate.

"We were kind of using it as a garage," he said of the 40-by-60-foot structure. "Luckily, I was at work, because I do park my truck in there."

Some Tonganoxie businesses were overrun with customers looking for help in combating the storm. At Pelzl's Do It Best hardware, "People were wanting ice melt, snow shovels, kerosene and kerosene heaters," according to owner Don Pelzl.

Courtney St. Clair reported that deliveries were up at Mo's Pizza.

"A lot of kids were home from school, and that made a big difference," she said.

At Mr. Goodcents, owner Mark Matheson said he's concerned about safety.

"I don't make the driver's go out if they don't feel comfortable," he said. "It's their call in inclement weather. I don't want someone to get hurt over a $4 sandwich."

Although his breakfast business was up during the storm because some other restaurants didn't open he reported about a 25 percent drop in overall revenue.

"Most of that was in the evening hours," he said.

"And we're not flat," Mahoney said. "We try to get the steepest hills first. We want to get the main roads open, and then we start doing all the other roads."

Workers at the U.S. Post Office in Tonganoxie generally were successful in delivering mail, despite the storm.

"They actually did really well," said Ron Hubbard, temporary postmaster. "Since the county didn't have to close any roads for downed power lines, they were able to get through every day."

Treacherous roads were a concern for Tonganoxie school Superintendent Richard Erickson as he called off classes on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. The school chief said the district has about five days remaining that can be used for inclement weather.

"We have about seven or eight built into our schedule, and I'm glad we do," he said. "The ice was really a problem for us danger on the roads and danger up here near the buildings. This was really one of the most difficult storms to clean up from."

Apparently, a power surge on Wednesday or Thursday caused problems for the computer server at the district's central office.

"It's fried," said Melissa Ostermeyer, secretary.

That will cost the district between $2,000 and $2,500, Erickson said.

Minor outages

Most residents and businesses in Leavenworth County retained electric service, despite the storm. On Wednesday night, 4,062 customers of Leavenworth-Jefferson Electric Cooperative lost power when an insulator broke on a transmission line. The customers, who were north and west of Tonganoxie, were reconnected about three and one-half hours later, said Joe Heinen, member services manager for the cooperative, which serves 7,000 customers.

A few line outages were reported on Thursday, he said.

"We lucked out this time around," Heinen said. "The storm stayed south of us."

The cooperative sent four linemen and two tree trimmers to Altamont, where they helped another cooperative handle outages from the storm.

Tonganoxie city firefighters responded during the day on Thursday to two reports of arcing power lines.

"It was limbs in power lines that were arcing, causing the trees to burn," said James Payne, deputy fire chief.

All in all, the city was fortunate, he said.

"If anything good came out of the tornado, crews cut trees out of power lines, which saved us from having a lot of problems," he said.

Fairmount Township firefighters responded to three calls Wednesday night in freezing rain.

About 7:30 p.m., a flue fire was reported at 166th Street and Kansas Highway 32. Little damage was reported.

"We responded with two pumpers and an aerial," said Galen Gorup, department public information officer. "We used the aerial, and it was the only safe way to get up on the roof. We were concerned that if we didn't hurry, the aerial would freeze up. We had it extended out about 100 feet, so we had to work fast."

Coming down that ladder was slick work, Gorup said.

About three hours later, firefighters were called to an electrical transformer that had exploded near 155th Street and Ripley in Basehor.

"There's nothing we can do," Gorup said. "If we put water on it, it would be the last time we ever did."

Another flue fire was reported about 11 p.m. in the 20800 block of 166th Street. A small amount of damage was reported.

"It's kind of unusual," Gorup said "We haven't had very many chimney fires, and we had two within four hours and on one of the best nights. They always happen like that, though."

Too much ice

On Thursday, Brad Myhand, who lives northeast of Easton, lost his metal-clad barn as it collapsed under the weight of ice on the roof.

"I don't have the slightest idea why it did it," he said.

Even though he lost a four-wheeler in the collapse, he considered himself fortunate.

"We were kind of using it as a garage," he said of the 40-by-60-foot structure. "Luckily, I was at work, because I do park my truck in there."

Some Tonganoxie businesses were overrun with customers looking for help in combating the storm. At Pelzl's Do It Best hardware, "People were wanting ice melt, snow shovels, kerosene and kerosene heaters," according to owner Don Pelzl.

Courtney St. Clair reported that deliveries were up at Mo's Pizza.

"A lot of kids were home from school, and that made a big difference," she said.

At Mr. Goodcents, owner Mark Matheson said he's concerned about safety.

"I don't make the driver's go out if they don't feel comfortable," he said. "It's their call in inclement weather. I don't want someone to get hurt over a $4 sandwich."

Although his breakfast business was up during the storm because some other restaurants didn't open he reported about a 25 percent drop in overall revenue.

"Most of that was in the evening hours," he said.

And the good news is

Even though the storm posed some obstacles for Leavenworth County residents, Sy Nyhart was glad to see it.

"It's going to give us some moisture," said the county extension agent for agriculture. "We were really quite dry. It appears to me it might be an inch of actual moisture."

As the ice melts, the ground should absorb the water.

"What moisture is there, we're going to benefit from," Nyhart said. "It didn't blow and cause all of it to end up in the ditches on the road. It stayed out in the fields pretty well. So it will be some benefit. It got cold enough that it put the wheat back into dormancy. I don't think it was damaged at all here."

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