By Travis Mounts and Michael Buhler
A line of severe thunderstorms caused significant damage across parts of western Sumner County, including in Argonia, where both schools sustained significant damage. There was a line of damage from Norwich running southward to south of Milan. Much of the area lost power as power lines were broken and damaged as far north as Suppesville. The National Weather Service reported winds of between 60 and 70 miles per hour.
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The damage was most evident inside of Argonia, especially on the east side of town. There were limbs down across the city, and some residents lost windows in their homes or vehicles.
At Argonia Elementary, significant damage to the roof led to quite of bit of flooding in the school. In the main hallway, water got as deep as several inches. Most of the classrooms suffered some damage, either from water coming through the roof or from rain that blew through broken windows.
Most of the damage at Argonia High School seemed to center on the gymnasium, which also suffered roof damage. There were spots in the gymnasium where daylight was visible Tuesday morning.
“The biggest concern at the high school is the gymnasium floor,” said superintendent Dr. Julie Dolley. “It took on a lot of water Monday night.”
Much of the water in the gymnasium ran into the main hallway on the west side of the building, but early reports are that the north side of the building, the office and the main entryway suffered little damage.
The district’s insurance adjuster and a restoration specialist were expected Tuesday to assess the damage and begin the repair process.
While some residents were without power for just a couple of hours Monday evening, other areas didn’t have power until 4 a.m.
Claire Hieger, director of member services Sumner-Cowley Electric Coop, reported that approximately 500 lost power in the wake of Monday’s storm, primarily in the Argonia and Norwich areas. Hieger added that 250 customers were without power as of Tuesday afternoon, but that she expected all customers to have had their power back on by Wednesday.
It was a similar story for customers served by Wheatland Electric.
“At one point, we actually had the whole eastern portion of District 7 out of service – 3,100 customers in an area including Milton, Argonia, Mayfield, Caldwell, Conway Springs, Bluff City and Freeport,” Steve Wilson, line superintendent for District 7 of Wheatland Electric, said. “What happened was the 138 transmission line went down north of Argonia, which tripped all the substations off that feed to these areas. Once we established where all of our damage was and we isolated the 138 line, we were able to pick up the transmission line that feeds these areas.”
Wilson said that Wheatland still had approximately 100 to 200 customers without power in Milton, Argonia and Caldwell as of Tuesday morning. Wilson added that approximately 60 to 70 utility poles were down east and north of Argonia as of Tuesday morning.
At the Argonia swimming pool, manager Kim Quinn and several staff members were beginning to remove debris from the pool. A large amount of leaves, tree bark and dirt were clogging drains and shutting down the filtration system. Swimming lessons were cancelled.
Quinn said a lifeguard stand blew into the water, and with the filtration system clogged, it was difficult to see just how much degree was in the deep end of the pool.
In Milan, there was a minimal amount of tree damage, but one resident said a camper blew over. He added that a relative about four miles south of Milan lost a roundtop barn.
At the Heimerman farm near 50th Avenue North and Dixon Road, the first round of the storm caused significant damage. It tore up several outbuildings, and ripped large pieces of metal off a barn. Later, a lightning bolt struck the family home, causing a small fire in the basement.
On Tuesday morning, three stretches of Argonia Road were closed between Argonia and Parallel Road because of downed power lines. A number of rural dirt roads were blocked by downed trees and limbs or were covered in standing water. At one point Monday evening, tree debris blocked U.S. Highway 160 near Argonia.
There was at least one report of damage near Viola, but for the most part Viola and Conway Springs escaped the damage that struck to the west and south.