Butler County storms bring damaging winds, brief downpours

07/26/2011 7:39 AM

07/26/2011 7:39 AM

Nobody's quite sure how strong the winds were that blew through Butler County near El Dorado Lake late Sunday afternoon.

But Diane Flamm, owner of Bluestem Boat & RV Storage two miles east of the lake, says she's been through 80-mile-an-hour winds — and the damage that met her eyes when she stepped outside was worse than anything she's seen.

"I just went, 'Wow,' " she said when she saw campers leaning against one another or tipped over onto the ground.

Dozens of others had been blown off their blocks. In all, Flamm said, about 100 boats and campers were damaged by Sunday's winds.

"There were two guys standing in one of the sheds," she said. "They said it had to be 120-mile-an-hour winds. It was strong winds and it was very loud when it came — very loud."

Flamm lives on the property and was standing in the kitchen when the winds hit shortly after 4:30 p.m.

"It felt like the house lifted up and sat back down a little," she said.

Two buildings with eight storage units each were also damaged in the storm.

Butler County Emergency Management Director Jim Schmidt said he wouldn't be surprised if the damage estimate at the storage business tops $500,000.

"To toss and move those campers, I think it would take at least 70-mile-per-hour winds," Schmidt said.

Small, intense thunderstorms popped up all over the Wichita metropolitan area Sunday, according to the National Weather Service.

"Some of them produced locally damaging downbursts," meteorologist Kevin Darmofal said.

McConnell Air Force Base reported 70-mph winds, and 55-mph winds were reported five miles south of downtown Wichita.

The storms produced locally heavy — and typically brief — downpours.

Officially, Wichita recorded only a trace of precipitation on Sunday, but isolated pockets in and around Wichita received more than an inch, Darmofal said.

"In some instances, they (the storms) were only a mile or two across," he said.

Monday saw high temperatures topped out in the upper 90s, snapping a string of 10 straight days of triple-digit temperatures in Wichita.

But the 100s will return today, forecasters say, and continue for most of the week.

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