By JUNO OGLE
ELLIS — A fast-moving storm brought damaging winds and heavy rain across parts of northwest Kansas on Wednesday night, with the largest damage apparently at St. Mary Catholic Elementary School and Church in Ellis.
The roof of the school was blown off in the storm as it passed through Ellis around 6:45 p.m. Wood beams supporting the metal roof were strewn about the church parking lot, and pieces of the metal roof were blown into and over the church.
The first reports of severe weather came in at 6 p.m., with 1-inch hail reported in and south of Bogue, along with street flooding, according to the National Weather Service. Hail of 1.25 inches was reported southwest of Bogue, and broken power poles were reported about 13 miles south of town.
The storm charged southeast, prompting severe thunderstorm warnings for Trego and Ellis counties. About 6:30 p.m., winds blew a shed into some vehicles and broke 8-inch branches about 12 miles north of Ellis, according to weather service reports.
Despite initial reports of tornado damage, Matt Gerard, lead forecaster at the Dodge City National Weather Service, said none were confirmed. The storm did contain a rotating supercell, however.
“They can do a lot of damage with those rear-flank downdraft winds,” Gerard said.
Reports of wind gusts up to 60 mph were reported in multiple areas in Ellis County as the storm advanced southeast.
It began to die out in Rush County, Gerard said. As that happened, another storm system to the south began to intensify and moved across parts of southwest Kansas, causing damage in the Jetmore and Kinsley areas.
After the storm passed Ellis, volunteers rushed to St. Mary Catholic School, where a section of the metal roof was blown off, damaging the church next to the school, and part of the brick facade on the east side of the school collapsed.
Elsewhere in Ellis, a dead pine tree in Chrysler Park along 10th Street was blown down, and residents picked up large limbs from their yard. Some street flooding was also reported.
Rainfall totals from the storm reported to the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network included 2.35 inches 3 miles southeast of Hays, 2.07 1.2 miles northwest of Hays, 1.3 inches 4 miles northeast of Ellis.
In Trego County, rainfall reports ranged from 1.45 inches about 3 miles southwest of Ogallah to an inch near Collyer.
Ellis County Undersherrif Scott Braun said Thursday morning the office had confirmed several damage reports from north of Ellis.
“We believe it to be microbursts based on what we’re seeing,” Braun said.
A Quonset hut was destroyed in the 2800 block of 130th Avenue an outbuilding destroyed in the 1800 block of that road. In the 1600 block of 160th, multiple buildings at a farmstead were damaged, and in the 2600 block of 110th Avenue, a 60-foot by 120-foot shed was completely destroyed.