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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

High winds snap power poles in Hutchinson

By Kristen Roderick
Hutchinson News

A power pole was at a 45-degree angle leaning toward Metropolitan Coffee as Jim Kitson and his family pulled in Wednesday night.

They had to take the back way — around Freddy’s Frozen Custard and across Lorraine Street — to get to the coffee shop.

A severe thunderstorm that ripped through Hutchinson brought at least an inch of rain to the area, but it caused power poles to snap at 17th and Lorraine.

The barista at Metropolitan Coffee watched as winds exceeding 70 mph snapped the poles during the storm, shortly after 7 p.m.

“He said it happened at once,” said Kitson, co-owner of Metropolitan Coffee.

More than 4,300 Westar Energy customers were without electrical power in Reno County for at least two hours. Harvey County had more than 1,200 without power.

Erin La Row, a spokeswoman with Westar, said crews had to wait until the storms passed before doing extensive work on the lines.

Police blocked 17th and Lorraine, and businesses like Freddy’s Frozen Custard, Kwik Shop and Metropolitan Coffee were without electrical power.

“We have some backup power for the phone and Internet,” Kitson said. “But we had to kick all of the customers out.”

Fire crews made sure nobody entered the area as the power was shut off.

It was just one call during a busy night for the Hutchinson Fire Department.

During the storm, strong winds caused a tree branch to fall onto a gas meter near Chemical and Star.

“It leaked for quite a while,” said Battalion Chief Darin Gehring.

The fire department broke the meter off before Kansas Gas Service was able to come in and replace the meter.

Crews were also called to an electrical fire at 617 N. Hendricks St. shortly after 7 p.m., during the strong winds and heavy rains.

Gehring said the rain wasn’t a factor as crews were able to quickly extinguish the fire, which started on the outside wall of a three-car garage and apartment.

“It burnt a hole through the wall, but it was nothing major,” Gehring said.

The storms also brought large hail to Reno County.

Reno County Emergency Management director Bill Guy said areas north of Hutchinson had golf-ball-sized hail. As of Wednesday night, he had not heard of hail damage.

“There are power poles down in several areas and damage to the Kwik Shop at 17th and Lorraine,” he said. “I haven’t heard of any extensive damage.”

Power outages were also reported in Moundridge, Newton and Pratt.

Power lines were snapped near Pratt due to 70 mph winds. Also, power lines were down and roofs damaged as the storms went through Jetmore, according to the National Weather Service.

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