Archive for Sunday, April 26, 2009

Severe weather whirls through area

April 26, 2009

The series of storms that swept through Northeast Kansas took the life of a Lawrence man Saturday evening.

The storm also left significant damage in southern Leavenworth County, destroying homes, barns and vehicles.

And we may be in store for a repeat performance.

6News meteorologist Matt Elwell said there is a possibility of widespread thunderstorms with the potential for tornadoes this afternoon.Troy Gentzler, a 45-year-old Lawrence man, was struck by lightning and died in Jefferson County while riding a motorcycle with the group Bikers Against Child Abuse, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department said.

Gentzler was struck at mile marker 377 while going eastbound on Highway 24. Another man, 35-year-old Michael Robinson, was also injured by the bolt. He was riding next to the victim. Robinson was transported to Stormont-Vail Regional Health Center in Topeka, where he was treated and released.

In Douglas County, residents spotted clouds with strong rotation, but the storms never touched down, said Bob Newton of Douglas County Emergency Management. One person was injured by lightning while standing on a tower at the Clinton Lake Dam. His injuries were not life-threatening, according to Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical.

A home in west Lawrence was struck by lightning, but no damage was reported.

At least one Kansas City-area TV station showed tornado footage that it said was in Douglas County; however, all indications were that the only touchdowns were in Leavenworth County.

Saturday’s stormy weather, which started about 5:45 p.m. and lasted through the night, left the greatest damage along Douglas Road and Leavenworth County Road 25 where a tornado touched down, just a few miles away from Interstate 70.

The tornado was 50 to 75 yards wide and traveled northeast for about nine miles, said Leavenworth Emergency Director Chuck Magaha.

No injuries were reported, but six homes had minor to moderate damage.

In its aftermath, metal debris hung off of power lines, vehicles were flipped over and barns were crushed.

“The tornado went right over our house. It sounded like a freight train,” said Andrea Ford, who lives along Douglas Road. Half of a roof from a nearby barn had landed on her house and ruined her boyfriend’s trailers.

A few miles away, Daniel Oelschlaeger was attending a friend’s surprise 50th birthday party, held in a tent. As he was seeking shelter, he saw the tornado touch the ground.

“The surprise was the tornado,” he said.

A quarter of a mile away, the tornado destroyed three outbuildings, turned over a truck, snapped trees in half and spread debris several hundred yards away.

A house on that property, which was just north of where Leavenworth County Road 25 passes over I-70, had significant damage. Inside, an elderly woman in a wheelchair and her son were able to ride out the storm unharmed, Oelschlaeger said.

Half a mile away, John Wickey saw a small funnel and debris in the air. His house was unharmed, so he decided to check on his neighbors.

“We have never been hit head-on this hard in this area, but it’s been very close,” he said.

Michaela Moore and Angie Moss saw the tornado heading from the southwest when they decided to take cover in their basement with two other adults and five kids.

“It looked like it was coming straight for the house,” Moore said.

Moss’s home along Douglas Road was undamaged, but the barn across the street was destroyed.

“We wondered how it missed this house and took that one,” Moore said. “And how lucky we are.”

And all this could be repeated soon.

With the amount of moisture in the air and a stationary front settling in the region, Elwell said we could see similar weather today.

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