Friday, December 19, 2014

Storms slog city

By DOUG CARDER, Herald Senior Writer | 6/19/2013

The windshield wipers slapped back and forth as Hailey Luke navigated her Pontiac G6 through a torrential rain about 5 p.m. Tuesday to her home near Ottawa High School on Ash Street.

“There was water in spots on Ash Street, but nothing too deep,” Luke said. “I didn’t see anyone stranded.”  

The windshield wipers slapped back and forth as Hailey Luke navigated her Pontiac G6 through a torrential rain about 5 p.m. Tuesday to her home near Ottawa High School on Ash Street.

“There was water in spots on Ash Street, but nothing too deep,” Luke said. “I didn’t see anyone stranded.”  

Little did Luke and her husband, Cody Luke, an Ottawa firefighter, realize that Hailey’s drive home was only the beginning of their introduction to the storm, she said.

“When I got home from work, I found we had water in the basement,” Luke, an account clerk with the City of Ottawa’s finance department, said. “We had about an inch of rain in the basement. We had to tear out some carpet, but nothing else was damaged.”

The clean-up effort in the couple’s finished basement lasted through the night, Luke said.

“I saw the water and realized there was nothing I could do about it,” Luke said. “We had someone come and pump it out. We finished [the clean-up] about midnight or 1 [a.m.].”

The couple, who had lived in the home since April, had not experienced water in the basement before, despite several spring and summer showers, Luke said.

“I think the water [in the basement] was because we had a lot of rain in a short period of time,” Luke said.

Swollen storm clouds dumped about 3.75 inches of rain on Ottawa — roughly between 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. — stranding several motorists in low-lying areas of the city, law enforcement officials said.

Hail also damaged at least one house in the Appanoose area, Alan Radcliffe, Franklin County Emergency Management director, said.

“One house reported some windows broken out by hail and there was a lot of crop damage,” Radcliffe said. “There was golf ball- to baseball-sized hail.”

Ottawa received 3.75 inches of total rainfall Thursday, according to figures recorded at the city’s water treatment plant along the Marais des Cygnes River at First Street.

The cause of the sudden burst of torrential rainfall and storms was in part because of two storm cells running into each other, Radcliffe said.

“A pretty good cell up in the northwest corner [of the county] where hail was reported basically stalled north of [K-68],” he said. “Another small storm fired up southeast of Ottawa, and the two came together and stalled over Ottawa for a little over an hour. That’s what the radar showed.”

Stalled vehicles

Driving through the rain in his 4-wheel-drive truck, Capt. Adam Weingartner, with the Ottawa Police Department, came to the aid of a mother and her child who had become stranded when their minivan stalled in high water in the Walmart Supercenter parking lot, 2101 S. Princeton St., Ottawa, he said.

“A Walmart employee was there helping, and we got the mother and her child out of the minivan,” Weingartner said. “The water was up to the wheel wells at that point. They waited inside Walmart until the storm was over.”

It would not be the only stranded motorist Ottawa police would encounter during the downpour, Weingartner said.

Police found two stalled vehicles in high water at the intersection of 15th and Poplar streets, and one vehicle stranded in the 1400 block of Pin Oak Circle, Weingartner said. Flash floodwaters were ebbing at the bottom of the door frames of those vehicles, he said. Police assisted stalled motorists from about 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., Weingartner estimated.

“Vehicles can stall driving through standing water, and it doesn’t take much running water to sweep away a vehicle,” Weingartner said. “If you see water across a road, you should never try to drive through it.”

Police also had to ask several children to get out of rushing water in a stormwater collection area near the Don Woodward Community Center, 517 E. Third St., Weingartner said.

“That’s where stormwater comes down from Skunk Run and goes into the river,” Weingartner said. “As fast as the water was moving, a person could be swept away.”

Power outage

The powerful storm cell also packed damaging winds that caused a pair of power outages during the early evening hours in Ottawa, city officials said.

“We had two power outages caused by tree limbs falling on power lines [during the storm],” Jim Bradley, the city’s utilities director, said Wednesday morning. “It affected the southeast part of the community.”

The first outage left some residents without power from about 5 p.m. to 6:15 p.m., Bradley said. The second outage occurred a short time later in the same area and lasted about 30 minutes, Bradley estimated, adding he was not sure how many customers were affected by the outage.

Tuesday’s storm came after another damaging weather incident Saturday afternoon. That storm packed rain and damaging winds, which caused downed limbs and uprooted trees in Ottawa and Franklin County.

Herald Staff Writer Abby Eckel contributed to this report.

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