High winds cause downed power lines, outages around Wichita

02/20/2014 8:23 AM

08/06/2014 9:59 AM

A roller-coaster week of weather is expected to deliver mostly sunny skies and temperatures in the 60s in the Wichita area on Friday, forecasters say.

Temperatures this week have ranged from the 20s at night to highs in the 70s, with virtually every weather pattern imaginable – from sun to rain and high winds to snow.

On Thursday, strong wind gusts knocked out power to a half-dozen Wichita schools and thousands of Westar Energy customers.

Gusts topping 50 miles an hour struck shortly before 8 a.m. and again at mid-morning, knocking out power to more than 7,000 Westar customers at one point. Most of the outages occurred in the heart of the city.

“It looked like it was pretty much central Wichita,” Westar spokesman Leonard Allen said. “We had a couple of transmission lines that were impacted.”

A high wind warning was in effect for five hours Thursday morning, expiring at 11 a.m. Along with the strong gusts, Wichita saw plummeting temperatures. The high of 60 was reported shortly before 4:30 a.m. and the temperature fell nearly 20 degrees in a little more than three hours.

A band of snow moved through the metropolitan area, but the flurries did not accumulate.

The high winds knocked down power lines around Wichita, according to a Sedgwick County dispatch supervisor. Downed power lines had blocked three lanes of traffic at Harry and Edgemoor, and power outages were reported in north and central Wichita as well.

The emergency communications center was relying on a generator for power after electricity was knocked out there, a dispatch supervisor said. Power was knocked out at the juvenile courthouse and also at the Catholic Diocese’s Chancery office, affecting a news conference to announce a new bishop.

Instead, Bishop-elect Carl Kemme was introduced later in the morning at the Spiritual Life Center, 7100 E. 45th St. North.

The city of Wichita Housing and Community Services offices, at 332 N. Riverview, lost power as well. Offices reopened by midday Thursday.

USD 259 did not run buses on elevated routes, which was expected to potentially cause delays in picking up some students. As many as seven schools in the district were without power at one point in the morning, but spokeswoman Susan Arensman said all had their electricity restored by the noon hour.

The affected sites were: Anderson, Gateway, Horace Mann, Park, Greiffenstein and Wells and the Data Center. Greiffenstein/Wells are two schools but are at the same site, Arensman said by e-mail.

Temperatures are expected to cool down again this weekend, with highs in the 50s on Saturday and in the mid-40s on Sunday and Monday.

Contributing: Bill Wilson of The Eagle

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