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Hail pounds El Dorado; more rain expected as May threatens a record

Baseball-sized hail hit every car on the John K Fisher Inc. Buick GMC Cadillac lot on Tuesday night in El Dorado. (May 27, 2015)
Baseball-sized hail hit every car on the John K Fisher Inc. Buick GMC Cadillac lot on Tuesday night in El Dorado. (May 27, 2015) The Wichita Eagle

A hailstorm Tuesday night in El Dorado lasted less than 15 minutes, but it did several hundred thousands of dollars in damage through much of the city’s downtown, the Butler County emergency management director said Wednesday.

“When the one lone hailstorm on the prairie decided to lose all its hail, it was over the city of El Dorado,” said director Jim Schmidt. “Most reports have had golf ball- and baseball-size hail.”

The storm was yet one more in a series this month that have brought the Wichita area within sight of having one of the wettest Mays ever. Wichita has received 11.18 inches of rain since May 1, placing it as the third-wettest May on record. The second was in 1935 with 11.22 inches. The record is 13.14 inches, set in 2008.

More rain is expected this week. On Wednesday, the National Weather Service issued a flash flood watch that will remain in effect through Friday evening. The flash flood watch is for portions of central and south-central Kansas.

“Given saturated grounds, any additional rainfall will aggravate existing flooding or result in renewed flooding in the watch area,” the report said. “Runoff from the rainfall may lead to rapid rises on rivers and streams.”

Tuesday night’s hailstorm started in the southwest corner of Butler County and moved northeast, toward Towanda and El Dorado, Schmidt said.

The storm’s hail took out all the skylights at El Dorado’s Wal-Mart, prompting the store to close until Wednesday. It also caused roof damage to Butler Community College and the downtown courthouse complex.

At the John K. Fisher car dealership at 2670 W. Central in El Dorado, 20 cars had broken windshields.

“We’ve got a lot of damage,” said Tony Grunder, the dealership’s general manager. “All the cars have serious damage. We’ll either fix them or heavily discount them.”

The dealership’s General Motors sign was shattered by hail, and on Wednesday, the roof and building were still being evaluated for damage, he said.

“The storm didn’t last very long, but you knew right away the hail was big and hard,” Grunder said.

The hail broke windows, pounded roofs and stripped trees of their leaves.

“We didn’t get much more than half an inch of rain, but it stripped the tree branches, clogged up storm drains and hailed up on roofs so much it looked like it snowed,” Schmidt said.

No injuries were reported.

“We are looking at well over a million dollars in damages,” he said. “I’ve not seen a car in El Dorado that does not have hail damage. Lots of back windows were broken out.”

Because the storm caused such heavy damage, roofers are already in town. Schmidt encouraged people to use caution in selecting people who repair roofs.

He said the Kansas Attorney General’s website at ag.ks.gov includes a list of roofing contractors who have obtained a registration certificate from the state. All contractors must have a certificate in order to legally provide commercial or residential roofing services in Kansas.

Reach Beccy Tanner at 316-268-6336 or btanner@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @beccytanner.

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