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A Swift Moving Thunderstorm Burst Through Kiowa County with Little to No Warning Of Its Potential Fallout

By Raina Lynch

2021-07-14 15:28:59

A Swift Moving Thunderstorm Burst Through Kiowa County with Little to No Warning Of Its Potential Fallout
By: Raina Lynch

Damaging winds are often called “straight-line” winds to differentiate the damage they cause from a tornado’s destruction.  This is what the National Weather Service out of Pueblo are classifying the damaging storm seen in Kiowa and Prowers counties late Friday evening. 

Cameron, who works for the National Weather Service in Pueblo, stated that the highest wind speeds recorded with this storm was 86 MPH Northwest of Granada, Colorado. 

The photographs we have seen in the wake of the storm tell a story that makes one question if that could really be the highest wind in the area that night.

Linly Stum, a longtime resident of Towner says, “I’ve been here 60 years and have never seen anything like it.”   Linly and his wife drove Highway 96 and counted the electric poles that were downed by the storm.  By their count, as of Monday morning there were 15 poles down from Sheridan Lake to Brandon and 31 poles laid over from Sheridan Lake to Towner.

Sean Harkness, an area resident, said that the power was out from 9:50 PM until 4:30 AM in some places as linemen crews worked to restore the power. 

Mr. Stum indicated they lost two bins on their elevator, which is 150,000-bushel of storage structure taken out.   He said that these structures have withstood many storms and seen winds 60-80 MPH before with no damage.  Linly estimated that the winds at one point may have been up to 120 MPH to do the damage that it did.

Linly compared this storm to the derecho, or inland hurricane that caused a billion dollars in damage last year in Iowa.  The National Weather Service said that derecho’s have ratios that are larger and are more widespread. Linly estimated the damage done in the Towner area to be in the $2-$3 million range.

Randy Carney, a Burlington man who farms in eastern Kiowa County, was watching the storm from his camper window which he has parked on his lot on the south side of Towner.  Randy told us that he did not have any indication that the storm had the potential to cause such damage.  He was looking out his window observing the rain and wind when suddenly, “The camper started raising up and went over and over and over.”  Randy added, “I can laugh about it now because I’m still alive and kicking.”

When asked about the damage that his property received, he let us know that they are still digging stuff out of his building that was severely damaged on the lot where his camper was parked, and at this time he has no way of knowing what the financial cost is. 

Dozens of other garages, shop buildings, homes, grain bins, and pieces of farm equipment were scattered and destroyed because of the fierce winds in this storm.

Other areas of Kiowa County received damage though not as extensive as what we saw in Towner.  In Eads, the town had reports of vehicle windows broken out, tree limbs everywhere, as well as half of the long-standing shade tree in front of the Eads School cafeteria being blown down due to the powerful winds.

“This may be just another tree to some, but to many children throughout the years this tree has served as base for many games of tag,” alumni Alison Buck recounts.  “As well as first base for numerous games of kickball,” recalled by another alumni, Chelsea Crosby.

The National Weather Service-Pueblo Facebook page indicated early in the day on July 9 that there was a system moving from the Boulder area to the eastern plains that “could produce strong wind gusts, and there is a low chance that a couple of the storms produce very isolated severe wind.”

However, there was no other indication to the residents of Kiowa County to prepare for such a storm.  In fact, due to the swift movement of the storm, the Emergency Management Notifications which alert the residents of severe weather came in after the storm had already landed in some parts of Kiowa County.  Other areas of the county were given just enough time to get to their basements if they had one. 

In the wake of the storm, we have seen requests for anyone willing and able to come and help clean up the town of Towner.  Kiowa County Sheriff’s deputy Kayla Murdock spent a portion of her on-duty time Saturday assisting with clean up. Kiowa County Road and Bridge was called out to help as well bringing their trucks and other equipment to the small town located on the very eastern border of Kiowa County and Colorado. 

Volunteer fire fighters Monte and Kirby Stum assisted with the cleanup in the area as well as other members of the community.  Kiowa County Fire Protection District chief AJ McCracken drove over and described the damage to out buildings, shops, and grain bins as extensive. 

If you need something to do this week and, in the weeks ahead, take a drive to the east end of the county and serve your extended community. Help those affected clean up, rebuild, and remember that even though they are nearly 40 miles from the county seat, we are in this together.   

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