Finger on the Weather

Grapefruit-size hail, strong winds, tornado warnings across Kansas

Severe weather – including a tornado near Cedar Bluff Reservoir – pounded portions of Kansas Thursday afternoon.

A Kansas Highway Patrol trooper reported a tornado between the reservoir and I-70 shortly before 3:45 p.m., tweeting that power lines were down and trees had been damaged. Hail as large as grapefruit was reported in Trego County, with baseball- and softball-sized stones reported in the WaKeeney area.

“It was kind of armageddon out there for a while,” state trooper Tod Hileman said from north-central Kansas.

Vehicles and houses had windows knocked out by large hail, thick fog dropped visibility to zero for a while and numerous crashes were reported on hail-covered roads, he said.

A trooper investigating the report of a tornado south of I-70 found trees torn apart and power lines downed on K-147 near the reservoir, Hileman said. The tornado knocked down power lines across several county roads, he said.

All of WaKeeney lost electricity as a result of the storms, Hileman said.

Power had returned to WaKeeney as of late Thursday afternoon, though rural areas still had widespread outages, Trego County emergency management director Kathleen Fabrizius said.

Hail as large as baseballs and softballs was widespread, she said, and lasted for about 10 minutes. It filled streets and ditches.

“Our hospital sustained some damage,” Fabrizius said, though she said it wasn’t substantial.

A sun room at the hospital collapsed, she said, and there was a lot of window damage.

The town’s nursing home and courthouse also sustained extensive window damage, she said. Houses and businesses all over town will need to replace roofs.

After the storm moved through, thick fog rolled in, dropping visibility to zero.

The National Weather Service reported winds of 65 miles an hour in WaKeeney. On social media, Kody Chase wrote that his parents were three miles west of WaKeeney when the storm struck.

“Not much left of their car,” he wrote.

Trucks were blown over, too.

Tornado warnings have been issued at various times for Trego, Gove, Sheridan, Graham and Logan counties.

Strong storms moved into Barton County late Thursday afternoon, with heavy rain and high winds reported in Pawnee Rock at 5 p.m.

Storms are expected to persist through the day around Kansas, with heavy rain possible in the Wichita area by late evening. The National Weather Service has issued a flash flood watch from 7 p.m. Thursday through Friday morning for Cowley, Harper, Kingman, Sumner and Sedgwick counties.

Stan Finger: 316-268-6437, @StanFinger

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