A storm bringing 80 mph winds and large hail swept through Geary and surrounding counties Monday morning downing powerlines over Interstate-70 heading east and Kansas Highway 177.
The interstate was closed between exits 313 and 328. Monday afternoon one lane opened to west-bound traffic. Projections from Evergy Electric was for 177 to remain shut until sometime Tuesday.
The powerline on the interstate came down at 9:35 a.m. near mile marker 315 bringing traffic to a halt but not causing injuries. On 177, two vehicles were trapped by the downed lines and minor injuries were reported.
Technical Trooper Ben Gardner, public information officer for Kansas Highway Patrol Troop C, said on 177 the driver of a semi received non-life-threatening injuries, but was stuck in the cab of the truck until the early afternoon.
“First responders (couldn’t) gain access to this driver because the lines (were) running across his truck,” Gardner said Monday afternoon. “They (had) the driver wait in his truck until they (could) … get the lines removed and ensure that they were shut off.”
Another semi on I-70 went off the road to avoid that line as it was coming down. Gardner said that driver saw what was happening and braked in time to avoid the line, but in doing so, he put himself in the ditch.
The I-70 situation involved one transmission line and at 177 there were nine structures down, said Damon Smith, senior communications manager with Evergy.
“For 177 you’re looking at some time (Tuesday) before they actually get 177 back open,” he said. “And you’re probably looking at construction for getting those lines and poles back up throughout the rest of the week, but that won’t impact traffic beyond (Tuesday).”
The company brought in crews from Kansas City and put the priority on getting the interstate open, while also beginning work on the 177 lines.
Smith said the motorists who were caught up in the storm, which was also dumping torrential rains, did the right thing by staying in their vehicles until the power in the area could be shut off.
“If you come across a downed power line, you want to stay at least 10 feet away from it,” he said. “There’s a real chance that it could still be energized. You want to make sure that you call and report — call 911 or if you want to, give us a give us a call.”
The storm that caused the damage had been brewing throughout the night and moved across western Kansas and southern Nebraska.
“It continued to fire off showers and thunderstorms overnight,” said Shawn Byrne, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Topeka. “One of the aspects that helped to intensify It was a warm front that was just south of us. That essentially allowed for a lot of what we call warm air advection or warm moist air aloft to essentially feed into that, which helped to intensify them a little bit.”
With plenty of fuel and energy the storms survived and strengthened through the night and into the morning and hit Geary and surrounding counties in two waves, he said.
In addition to 60 to 80 mph winds golf ball and tennis ball sized hail was reported throughout the region and baseball size hail was confirmed in Lyon County, he said.