Storm cells closely monitored

By BOB JOHNSON
Register City Editor

Register/Richard Luken
A series of storms that blasted their way through southeast Kansas uprooted several trees in the Colony and Carlyle areas, including this large tree near Crest High School, whose roots still were covered with freshly manicured grass. Several homes in the area also sustained minor damage, as did some barns and outbuildings.

Pam Beasley, figuring she’s a little more nimble with her shoes off, kicked them into a corner of the emergency operations room in the Allen County Law Enforcement Center early Tuesday afternoon.
Good thing. For about 90 minutes Beasley, the county’s emergency management director, darted about, answering cell and conventional telephone calls from weather watchers, sending information to the National Weather Bureau by laptop and scribbling what she learned on a large white board. She also kept local responders appraised of what was occurring.
Beasley, Larry McDonald, one of her lieutenants, and Ralph Romig, who heads up ham radio operators who volunteer as storm watchers, were sequestered in the room while three intense storm cells swept through Allen County. Their chores were to stay a step or two ahead of the storms.
Angela Murphy and Cassie Michael, who look after day-to-day chores in the sheriff’s office, also were involved. They had real-time storm images on their computer screens and directed deputies out and about watching the weather system.
Michael’s observations were so acute that she detected small rotating segments of one storm about five minutes ahead of a warning generated by the weather service through Doppler Radar readings.
Romig has been an amateur radio operator for years and as head of that small legion of radio-equipped watchers he moved his people about the county like pieces on a chess board that put them in the most advantageous places. One was at Piqua Hill, another on the Russell Stover Candies parking lot, a third atop the hill at Allen County Country Club.
As the storm cells moved, including one that developed in a matter of minutes from a small blip to a large menacing red splotch on the computer screen, county deputies were relocated to better vantage points.

THE FIRST report of substance came in at 1:05. A spotter near Russell Stover Candies reported a shelf cloud was approaching with the promise of severe weather. Four minutes later high winds heralded the storm’s arrival. From then on, there was constant chatter as one watcher and then another reported high winds, heavy rain, hail and areas of rotation that might be the birthplace of a tornado.
Iolans were fortunate.
The first portion of the system slipped to the north and then rolled on to the east, prompting a tornado warning from the National Weather Service for areas northeast of Iola, including Mildred. Minutes later weather bureau radar indicated the possibility of a tornado in or near Iola and the city’s siren began to wail, and continued for several minutes until the warning was rescinded.
Later, when the second cell enveloped Iola, another tornado warning was issued and set off the sirens.
Officially, no tornado was sighted by a trained weather watcher here, although an Iola police officer noticed swirling clouds in north Iola and relayed that observation to the dispatch center. Other areas of rotation, one near Neosho Falls, also were noted.
Strong winds did accompany parts of the storm system and ripped limbs from trees and toppled some trees, including several out in the county that blocked roads.
Heavy rain and large hail, some bigger than golf balls, fell on Iola and U.S. 54 was immersed so much that at one time a report came to the sheriff’s office that the highway had been washed out. Not so, Sheriff Tom Williams discovered after driving there and finding a few inches of water gushing over the pavement.

IN MOST areas of Allen County, damage was minimal compared to what could have occurred from storms so intense. Heavy rains fell throughout southeast Kansas, which caused streams, including the Neosho River, to swell.
The first cell cut a swath across the north edge of the county and into Anderson County. Tree damage, including some felled, was extensive in Colony. Also, some buildings and roofs sustained damage in Colony.
Power was off for a short time in parts of Iola and for a longer spell along the east side of the county, including Moran.
All in all, though, Allen County weathered the storm well, Beasley said.
The storm system worked its way into extreme southeast Kansas as the day wore on and as late as 10 o’clock still was threatening Crawford and Cherokee counties.
The weather service forecast another possible round of storms in southeast Kansas today and predicted thunderstorms and showers each day through the weekend.