TWISTER - A tornado was reported near Elk City Tuesday evening with no injuries reported.
Courtesy Photo
TWISTER - A tornado was reported near Elk City Tuesday evening with no injuries reported. Courtesy Photo
Rescues, fires, evacuations, stranded motorists and fatalities … the Montgomery County and southeast Kansas area was hit hard Tuesday when a storm moved through, dropping a deluge of rain which produced anywhere from two inches to 10 inches around the area. Dennis C. Catron, Sr., 72, and Dennis C. Catron, Jr., 39, both of rural Elk City, were killed Tuesday night when their vehicle was swept off the roadway during the heavy rainfall that drenched the entire southeast Kansas area. The incident happened on CR 2950 just south of CR 5400, according to the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office. Deputies responded to multiple calls of stranded motorists during the downpour and in some cases rural firefighters and deputies were going door to door to warn individuals of high water. David Cowan, Office Safety director and Code Enforcement, said emergency services responded to “multiple rescues, a structure fire and had to evacuate some houses.” Cowan said the 8.3 inches of rain dumped in a roughly fivehour period caused fast-rising creeks and surface water which led to evacuations in several neighborhoods including the Whiskey Creek area on the city’s north side. Independence Police Chief Jerry Harrison stated the department “responded to a number of stranded motorists” around town. Several city streets were impassable including Penn Ave. and Park Blvd. near the underpasses. Sheriff’s deputies also responded to a vehicle found on its side in a ditch near CR 4500 and CR 5000 but nobody was found in or around the vehicle; the owner/occupant of the truck was located at a later time at his home and was safe. A tornado was reported in the Elk City area and Emergency Preparedness Director Rick Whitson said several videos of the funnel cloud had surfaced on social media. He is asking those who have footage of it to please email it to rwhitson@mgcountyks.org. Straightline wind gusts were reported at more than 80 miles an hour at the time of the funnel cloud. Standard Motor Products, at 1300 W. Oak St., experienced flooding overnight as the loading docks on the west end of the building had rising water as early as 10 p.m. Tuesday night. Crews dove into action immediately, sweeping, squeegeeing, mopping and vacuuming throughout shipping, receiving and a handful of manufacturing areas in the plant. Second shift was sent home around 11:30 p.m., except for a few who stayed to help with the cleanup. Fortunately, no major damage was reported to equipment or completed parts. Jackie Pittman, SMP plant manager, was appreciative of all who chipped in to help eliminate the issue, stating, “Many thanks to all who cleared the water and are cleaning up this morning, and a special thanks to George James, Lynn Teats, Brad Howell, Victor Harbers and Larry Henderson who worked all night.” According to the National Weather Service out of Wichita, rainfall totals for Tuesday into Wednesday in Independence totaled around eight inches; Elk City areas received eight to 10 inches; Cherryvale received in the six to eight inch range; and Coffeyville and Neodesha received around two to three inches. The lake level at Elk City Reservoir went from 796.02 on Tuesday to 800.06 on Wednesday, although the release was still at 5 cubic feet per second as of press time. The Verdigris River at Coffeyville climbed rapidly and was above flood stage late Wednesday morning but fell below flood stage Wednesday afternoon. At the east side staging station in Independence, city personnel measured 1.59 feet before the storm hit at 5 p.m. and by 5 a.m. Wednesday the depth was measured at 31.46 feet. “That is an incredible amount of water to deal with in a short timeframe,” Cowan said. “And the water was moving probably as swift as I’ve ever seen it.” Cowan continued, stating a steady, five-hour stream of emergency calls began coming into the city’s 911 center at 9:19 p.m., with the first being a fire alarm call at Independence Middle School which was immediately followed by a water rescue call at 10th and Sinclair streets. Calls continued coming in for water rescues, stranded vehicles, missing people, flooded basements and sewage backups, along with a structure fire call at 810 N. Penn at 10:09 p.m. The situation triggered the activation of the city’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) at City Hall, as well as a second 911 seat to handle the high volume of calls, Cowan said. According to a press release from the city, emergency personnel divided into two teams to canvass city neighborhoods at most risk from flooding to warn citizens and assist with any needed evacuations. Emergency personnel was accompanied by personnel from the city’s utility providers, Atmos Energy and Westar, to further ensure safety for all. Cowan said street crews worked to place barricades on flooded streets and Memorial Hall and City Hall were opened as shelters. “I can’t say enough about the teamwork of emergency services personnel from across the county,” Cowan stated. “Everyone did an exceptional job and our response system worked very well.” The flash flood waters in most neighborhoods receded significantly by around 1:30 a.m. and residents were able to return to their homes, noted Cowan, adding, “The extended forecast does indicate more rain chances the rest of the week with heavier precipitation projected on Sunday.” He cautioned citizens to take flash flooding seriously and never drive or wade into water covering the roadway, especially at night. Sheriff Robert Dierks would like to thank everyone involved from the first responders to include, fire, EMS and other law enforcement agencies, as well as every citizen who assisted friends and neighbors. “In times like these when our resources are stretched thin, it is great to see citizens step up and help their neighbors. There are many unsung heroes who will never get any recognition for helping out in situations like these and their stories may never be heard, but the help they provide probably saved many lives,” Dierks said. “Our hearts go out to the families of those lost in last night’s storm,” Cowan said. “We hope all citizens will think carefully and use their best judgement in these situations to stay safe and return home to their loved ones.” Temperatures were below normal Wednesday and it was a brief dry spell, until the rain forecasted again for Thursday. More rain is forecasted for Friday with some strong storms possible with the rainy weather forecasted to continue through Sunday night.