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Wind and hail wreak havoc

By Tim Horan

The Salina Journal

(MCT) Large hail and straight winds strong enough to blow over a freight train caused damage in McPherson, Dickinson and Ellsworth counties Wednesday night.

In Galva, wind damaged homes and businesses and derailed 33 railroad cars. In Abilene, south winds hurled baseball-size hail, breaking windows and damaging vehicles. And in Ellsworth County, a passenger was injured when a semitrailer was blown over on Interstate Highway 70.

No warning

Mark Davis, a spokesman for Union Pacific, said about 800 feet of railroad track was damaged when the rail cars were blown over.

Davis said the train would have tried to avoid the storm had there been a weather warning.

"We didn't have any weather warnings issued about that," he said. "The team is looking at not only wind speeds but why there wasn't any warning issued."

The train that was pushed from the track was headed to Chicago from Los Angeles, carrying ocean-going containers on flat cars.

"They carry primarily consumer goods: electronics, sporting apparel, household appliances, things of that nature," Davis said.

Crews started working Wednesday night to clear the containers, and the track was expected to be replaced by Thursday night.

"Weather-related incidents don't happen that often," Davis said. "They do occur every once in a while."

Trains usually stopped

He said railroad procedure is to stop a train until the weather warning is lifted.

"Certain rail cars have what we call blow-over wind speeds," he said. "So if the speed of that forecasted wind is mentioned, we stop all the trains in that area that apply."

He said different rail cars have different blow-over speeds.

"In some cases, it could be 65 miles per hour and in some cases it could be less. You would have different speeds for loaded versus empty," he said.

Power out

Tom Sydow, spokesman for Westar Energy, said about 650 customers were without power in the Galva area when 18 power poles were damaged. He said electricity was restored to all but about 50 customers by midnight.

Sydow said damage in and around Abilene was minimal.

The National Weather Service reported wind speeds as high as 65 in Galva, 64 in Dickinson County and 64 in Ellsworth. However, Darren Frazier, director of emergency management in McPherson County, said gusts of 72 mph were recorded in Galva.

'Significant damage'

Frazier said the 6:10 p.m. storm covered a 12-by-17-mile area east of McPherson. The only casualty in Galva was a small calf. However, about 60 homes were damaged.

He said windows and siding on the south side of homes and roofs will have to be replaced. At one residence, glass that broke out of a storm door was impaled in the wall 10 feet to the north.

"That's how much force it had," he said. "There is some significant damage."

A grain truck parked on Kansas Highway 56 was blown onto its side.

Roof blown off

The wind blew the roof off Bruce Welding, 236 W. Highway 56.

"The big garage door, it folded up," said Katherine Bruce, whose husband, Andy, owns the business. "When it blew in, the roof came off about half the shop."

She said the front windows also had blown out.

"Most of the houses, the siding is just shredded on the south side," she said. "People lost windows and big branches."

Bruce hopes to get the roof covered and the shop open sometime next week.

Tourists a problem

A couple of people out looking at storm damage near Galva were involved in a collision.

"We had all kinds of people trying to get in and look," Frazier said. "Some of our responders said it was really tough because people would go around the barricades we put up to get in to see everything going on. They really compounded us securing the scene. We struggled for a while trying to get that under control."

Frazier said he has seen the problem with onlookers in the past.

"Any time we have an event like that, we are going to have people coming in to see what is going on," he said. "It's human nature, but it sure causes issues when it happens."

Dickinson County affected

Brad Homman, Dickinson County administrator, said homes and businesses from Carlton north to Abilene were damaged when hail from golf ball to baseball size broke out windows and damaged vehicles. The wind also toppled a few trees.

Many Abilene residents recalled the June 1, 2011, hail storm that damaged 80 percent of the town's roofs.

Semi blown over

About 3 1/2 miles east of the junction with Kansas Highway 156 on I-70, in Ellsworth County, a gust of wind caught an empty trailer on a semi about 6:50 p.m. Wednesday, causing it to flip onto its side, according to the Kansas Highway Patrol.

An occupant, Charles Wynkoop III, 53, of Valley Falls, who was in the sleeper berth of the truck, was injured and taken to Salina Regional Health Center, where he was reported to be in good condition Thursday.

According to the patrol report, Eric M. Tyszko, 46, of Topeka, was driving the semi east when it went over a hill, and the wind caught the 2015 Great Dane trailer it was hauling. Tyszko was not injured, the report indicated.

(c)2014 The Salina Journal