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Winds whip, batter region

4/29/2014

By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

Unrelenting gale-force winds buffeted northwest Kansas and much of the state Monday, toppling trees, closing highways and peeling the skin off Kaw Valley Greenhouse sitting in The Mall's parking lot.

WaKeeney might have reported the highest wind speed of the day, a report of 67 mph a mile southwest of the city, according to the Dodge City National Weather Service.

Preliminary reports suggest Hays Regional Airport measured a high gust of 58 mph.

"We have 47 sites, and they all think they're all the windiest," said Kaw Valley Greenhouse spokesman Dan Parcel. "But I think Hays gets the award."

The plastic skin on the round-top greenhouse at Kaw Valley's site in The Mall at Hays parking lot fell victim to the wind, ripped off and flopping in the wind.

"Some police officers were afraid it was going to blow out in the street," he said.

Kaw Valley staff and the officers rounded up the wayward plastic and anchored it down.

"It's a big kite out in that wind," Parcel said.

Replacing the skin will cost approximately $400, but Kaw Valley first will have to bring out extra manpower from Manhattan to put it in place.

That's likely going to cot nearly $500.

Inventory inside the greenhouse was scattered about by the wind, but overnight lows the next three mornings are the greater concern right now.

Temperatures are expected to fall close to freezing -- approximately 36 degrees -- through Friday morning.

As a result, Kaw Valley is sending a few empty trucks to the Hays location to store frost-tender plants inside until the threat of cold weather passes.

Many of the plants are frost-hardy and likely won't be affected if temperatures dip to near freezing.

The greenhouse wasn't the only damage in the area, as a number of trees were toppled by the strong winds.

In WaKeeney, Trego County emergency management director Kathleen Fabrizius had reports of trees down and grain bins moved about, but no significant damage.

She doubts the 67 mph report was the peak.

"I think we had some upper 70 mph winds," Fabrizius said.

Elsewhere, reports varied.

Victoria had a peak wind of 52 mph, NWS reported.

At Goodland, the wind hit 64 mph. Winds northwest of Colby hit 61 mph, 59 mph southeast of Sharon Springs, 53 mph at St. Francis, 52 north of Atwood and at Bird City.

Winds in far northwest Kansas forced the Kansas Department of Transportation to close highways as a result of blowing dust.

High wind warnings continue today for far western Kansas, with wind advisories in place for the rest of western Kansas.

Gusts in excess of 60 mph are possible again today, kicking up dust.

"Can you turn it off?" Fabrizius asked. "I've had enough already."