Light rain prompts outages, accidents in Wichita area

Light rain triggered numerous outages and a small spike in traffic accidents during the morning commute in the Wichita area, officials said.

As welcome as the rain is for drought-ravaged Kansas, the drizzly opening act created headaches for Westar Energy.

The tag office on Murdock in downtown Wichita suffered a power outage for more than an hour Friday morning, and additional outages were reported in Derby and along Kellogg near Greenwich Road.

“Outages like we are experiencing today are common when we have light rain after an extended period of heat and dryness,” Westar spokesman Shane Batchelder said in an e-mail response to questions. “With light rain, like today’s, the particles are collected and carried into parts of the equipment, causing troubles ranging from minor equipment failures to pole fires and downed lines.

“In a stronger rainfall, dirt and dust particles that have built up on the equipment would be washed away instead.”

Most outages had been repaired by early afternoon, according to Westar’s online outage report site.

Light rain after an extended dry spell can make paved roads slick, because grease and grime that have accumulated on the surface congeal with the moisture. The National Weather Service had recorded .29 of an inch as of 10 a.m. Friday.

There were 28 accidents reported in Wichita between 6 a.m. and noon on Friday, compared with six during the same period on Thursday, according to Randy Bargdill, director of Sedgwick County Emergency Communications.

Out in the county, though, the accident numbers for that six-hour period were nearly identical on Thursday and Friday.

Rain is expected to continue periodically through most of the weekend.

Related stories from Wichita Eagle