Seven Kansas utility crews help restore power to devastated Kiowa
• National Weather Service determines storm was a microburst
August 16, 2017
Kiowa, Kansas, City Administrator Lou Leone couldn't say enough positive things about city employees, out-of-town utility crews and the people of Kiowa and their reaction to the worst storm Kiowa has ever seen in longtime residents' memories.
As is evident throughout the pages of the Newsgram last week, the excessively high wind storm, driving rain and bullet-like hail caused devastation throughout the community. The storm hit the community Saturday, Aug. 5, between 6 and 7 p.m.
The National Weather Service was in Kiowa last week to determine the cause of the storm. It was unsure if the storm was beyond 70 mph straight-line winds, possible tornado (as some people said they saw rotation), etc.
Leone said the National Weather Service determined the destruction was from a five minute microburst, which he said “is unheard of.” He described a microburst as “like water coming straight down out of your faucet and hitting the basin of the sink and moving outward.”
Leone said he called for the mutual aid agreement with KMU (Kansas Municipal Utilities) and the KMEA (Kansas Municipal Energy Agency). Crews came from Russell, Ellinwood, Clay Center, Hillsboro, Garden City and McPherson. Winfield dropped off supplies as they battled storm problems of their own. The crews worked around the clock, restoring power Monday morning at 1 a.m.
Since the storm, Leone said he's talked to city administrators from some of those towns who sent crews to help. “I was told their guys raved about Kiowa's hospitality – especially the steaks (donated by the grocery store) served to them at the community building.” Leone said the crews had told that while they worked, the people of Kiowa brought them food and drink instead of complaining about the inconvenience of the power outage.
The city administrator said there were 15 poles down within the city limits. Another 15 poles were out south of town, known as “the Burlington line.” Because of the poles down in town the generators would not work, Leone said. Also, the new and old generators still have to be wired up, he said.
When asked if the “big” generator the city purchased in 2004 is working, Leone said yes, but they've had some issues with it. He said the “big” generator is about to undergo a thorough check-up.
Leone told the council members this major storm will cost about $60,000 out of city reserves for manpower alone. Add in the expense of the late June wind storm and Leone said the city has spent roughly $100,000 in the last 30 days on manpower.
He said supplies for this storm will cost another $15,000. The city is in the middle of a major pole replacement project and it will continue. Inside the city there's an estimated 900 poles. Leone said with the poles outside the city there's about 1,200 total.
“The poles that fell are 30 plus years old,” Leone said. “Of the new poles we put up, not one fell.” He said they've replaced 38 poles on the Burlington line since last Christmas.
Leone said his staff is working to get some disaster money. Documentation goes to the county and then state. That documentation includes, for example, the hours worked even by volunteers.
If Kiowa residents still have tin, metal, branches, etc., in their yards, Leone said they should get the debris to the curb – separated because each type will go to separate locations. If a resident has extenuating circumstances, Leone said the city will work with them. Contact the City of Kiowa office at 620-825-4127.
The city administrator recommends people log on to the site ready.gov to prepare/protect their records in emergency situations.