High wind knocks out power to more than 17,000 customers in FD area, destroys countless trees
Out, but not down
Click here for more photos of the damage caused by Tuesday’s storm.
Webster County has been declared a disaster area by the Board of Supervisors after straight-line winds caused extensive damage Tuesday night, at one point knocking out power to more than 17,000 customers in Fort Dodge and the immediate area.
Scott Forbes, Webster County emergency management coordinator, said Wednesday that declaration will then go to the state for a declaration from the governor.
Fort Dodge was hit the hardest by the storm.
“It affected most of the city of Fort Dodge, and also some rural areas,” Forbes said. “Moorland and Callender had some trees down, along with Duncombe. The heavy hit areas are kind of in the northeast part of Fort Dodge.”
Iowa Central Community College received quite a bit of damage from the storm, according to college President Dan Kinney.
“Most of the damage is really contained to Hodges Field House, our gymnasium, and the Hanson Center, with approximately five of our rooftop heating and air units blowing over,” Kinney said. “And on top of Hodges, probably a third or fourth of the roof pulled back.”
Kinney said the west side of the fieldhouse has “a lot of water damage.”
In addition, windows in multiple buildings were shattered and six residence halls were damaged. A section of roof was ripped from one residence hall, exposing the trusses. Two rooftop units on top of the Triton Cafe were also blown over.
But Kinney said the damage could have been worse. He credited responders with helping to make sure it wasn’t worse.
That included the Fort Dodge Fire Department, which helped when the air units were blown over, which Kinney said “tore off the gas lines.”
“We had the gas and there’s a lot of things going on around town,” Kinney said. “We were able to shut most of it off ourselves. They got up on the roof and were able to help us cover it to reduce additional damage that could have happened.”
Kinney himself was on campus until 1 a.m. with other college officials.
He said the college community came together Wednesday to help clean up.
“They probably had the trees cleaned up by 10, 11 o’clock,” he said. “There were a lot of people out there, probably over 100, working to try and clear up the tree damage.”
That included faculty, staff and students, including the college’s baseball team, which Kinney said will leave today for a game in Nebraska.
“We called in a number of local contractors to get things buttoned down to salvage what we can so we don’t have additional damage,” Kinney said. “Thank you to all our local contractors, our faculty, staff and students.”
While the damage is still being assessed and final repair costs won’t be determined until later, Kinney said the storm won’t harm the college.
“We’ll be back up and going,” he said. “It’s just a little bump in the road.”
Tornado or no?
How do weather professionals know it was straightline winds that hit Fort Dodge and not a tornado?
There are several tools and techniques, according to Meteorologist Kelsey Angle with the National Weather Service.
Radar is one way, but another clue is that there’s actually too much damage — or more specifically, too widely spread damage, Angle said.
“With a tornado itself, the damage will not be quite as widespread as what you’re seeing in the Fort Dodge area,” he said. “Tornado damage is a lot more focused, instead of blocks and miles like you’re seeing damage there. Often tornado damage is more focused in a very small scale path, and you’ll see twisting of the damage itself.”
Across town, people spent their Wednesday cleaning up fallen tree branches and other damage.
A large tree fell in Lillian Sprengeler’s front yard on Fourth Avenue South, just behind St. Paul Lutheran Church, which lost its steeple.
“It really felt like a tornado,” she said of the storm. “My whole house just shook.”
She said a large tree branch also fell in her backyard, but other than breaking the tail light on her car, it caused no serious damage.
Her neighbor, Sherrill Umsted, had one of her windows break, but she doesn’t think it was caused by the wind. She believes it was Sprengeler’s tree coming down that broke it.
“I think the tree grabbed it with its little arms,” Umsted said.
John Robbins, who lives on Country Club Court, spent the day on his roof inspecting the damage.
He lost a few singles and a branch fell off his tree, but otherwise he couldn’t find any problems.
“I feel lucky if all I’ve got to do is repair a few shingles,” he said.
On Tuesday night, he said he and his family spent an hour in their bathroom when the sirens went off.
“When the lightning came on, it lit up the place like it was daytime,” Robbins said.
Shortly after the winds moved through Fort Dodge Tuesday night, Chris Mikos had to call his dad, Mikos and Matt Furniture owner John Mikos, after the wind tore part of the roof off the store at 3336 Fifth Ave. S.
“It just peeled it off,” Mike Mikos said.
Mikos recalled the conversation with his son Wednesday morning as a crew from Jensen Builders Ltd. worked outside removing the damaged roof and his family and employees were moving furniture into their warehouse.
“Dad,” he said, “it sounds like a waterfall in here. It’s been like that since nine.”
It still sounded like there was a small waterfall in the store as water continued to rain down from the ceiling into a large puddle over much of the showroom floor. Rivulets of water bounced off the cushions of a leather couch and puddled on end tables.
The water damage was confined to part of the showroom.
“The warehouse is dry as a bone,” Mikos said.
Mikos said work will start immediately on repairs.
“Jensen is here already,” he said. “We need a new roof. It’s not as bad as it looks.”
Mikos said the store and inventory are both insured.
High winds were culprit
Winds reached 60 or 70 miles per hour, according to Meteorologist Kelsey Angle with the National Weather Service.
“We had some severe thunderstorms that moved through and had widespread damaging winds around the Fort Dodge area,” Angle said.
Damage was also reported around Carroll, and in Kossuth County, with some places reporting golf ball-sized hail, Angle said. Those 60- to 70-mile-per-hour winds were reported around Odeboldt, in Rockwell City, Carroll, Whittemore and Grand Junction. There was tree damage in Moorland and Callender, hail in Pocahontas, power outages and more damage in Algona and Wesley.
“It was pretty widespread,” Angle said.
He did have a bit of good news.
“It looks like we might get a break tomorrow,” he said Wednesday.
Cleaning up at work and home
Jon Kern had his hands full. He worked from 10 p.m. to 8 a.m. for the city of Fort Dodge, clearing large trees out of the roadway.
By 10 a.m. Wednesday he was at work with a hand saw, moving the limbs that had fallen on his own house and yard.
“My chain saw blade was dull, so I got the hand saw,” Kern said, as he applied some elbow grease to the storm’s aftermath. “I’m too tired to go to the store and get one.”
Kern was moving trees all over town.
“Mostly on the south side,” he said. “When we got that done, we moved to the north side. We couldn’t get it all because of power lines.”
The work can be a little dangerous.
“At night when there’s no light, it’s hard to see how low the power lines are,” he said. “It’s scary.”
FD cleanup schedule set
The city of Fort Dodge announced crews will continue removing fallen trees and large limbs for the remainder of the week and into next week.
Crews will start with clearing snow routes, then move to side streets.
Starting Monday, the city will clean storm damage that has been placed on the curb using the following schedule:
• Monday, May 22 — The area north of Second Avenue North and east of 15th Street including Orchard Glen, Rolling Hills and 170th Street;
• Tuesday, May 23 — The area south of Second Avenue North and east of 15th Street;
• Thursday, May 25 — The area north of Fourth Avenue North and west of 15th Street;
• Friday, May 26 — The area south of Fourth Avenue North and west of 15th Street, including Pleasant Valley area and the area east of South 15th Street and South of the Chicago Northwestern Railroad track to Patterson Field Road.
Public Works will start clearing at 6 a.m. the day of clean up. Crews will only take fallen tree storm debris.
Visit the city website for more information.
Kern would have been doing concrete work or mowing in a normal work day.
“This is the worst the gas and electric people have had it for a long time,” he said. “We have a group of six or eight people gathering up the recycling bins.
“We’re going to be busy for the next few days.”
Heather and Anthony Baadke, of 1620 N. 23rd St., had not one, but two large trees fall on their home Tuesday night. Branches from the trees went through the roof, attic and into their living room.
The falling trees also took out power lines in the back yard, a trampoline and knocked over a pile of firewood.
“It happened so fast,” she said.
With the power out, initially, the family had little idea what was happening.
None of the family members were injured, she said, something for which she’s grateful.
“That’s what I keep telling myself,” she said. “In addition, we saved the two dogs and the turtle.”
One of the children, Leif Baadke, 16, was even able to joke about it, a little.
“I get to tell people we have a tree house,” he said.
Their daughter, Lillie Baadke, 9, was also able to see a little bit of a silver lining.
“It’s a good thing this didn’t happen today,” she said, “cause I’d be in math class.”
Brad Baade, of 1902 Second Ave. N., had a driveway full of tree limbs and a dangling service line to deal with Wednesday morning.
“We were at home,” he said. “We started hearing a lot of banging and crashing. I looked out and I had this tree down.”
While the falling tree took down part of his privacy fence and service line, the real excitement was on 19th Street next to his home. Another tree fell on a motorist from Colorado who was driving.
“The gal was trapped in her car,” he said. “The police came and got her out. It was a little nerve wracking for awhile.”
His neighbor, Ashley Robinson, was, like almost everyone in Fort Dodge, without power.
“We’re taking our kids to a hotel till they get that fixed,” she said.
Joe Nordstrom has an older brick home at the corner of North 16th Street and Fourth Avenue.
“It still shook,” he said. “I’ve never felt it do that before.”
His daughter, Natalie Nordstrom, refused to sleep in her own room after several tree branches hit the home.
“I was really scared last night,” she said.
John Settell, of 1434 Fourth Ave. S. got to experience a tree hitting the power lines along South 15th Street Tuesday night.
“There was a pretty loud bang,” he said. “Sparks flew twice.”
He said crews from MidAmerican Energy came by Tuesday night and cut the tree off the downed line and then came back Wednesday morning to repair the line and replace a pole.
He was spending much of the day watching the crew work.
Long power outage
Fort Dodge was the hardest hit area in the state in terms of electric service, according to Tina Potthoff, a spokeswoman for MidAmerican Energy Co.
During the peak of the storms, 17,092 customers were without power in Fort Dodge, Potthoff said.
MidAmerican received reports of 364 incidents. Examples of incidents include downed power lines or broken pieces of equipment.
MidAmerican crews from around the state traveled to Fort Dodge Wednesday to address those incidents.
“In the Fort Dodge area it’s all hands on deck,” Potthoff said.
As of Wednesday evening, more than 2,000 customers in The Messenger region were still without power, Potthoff said.
Fort Dodge Assistant Fire Chief Lenny Sanders advised people to use caution when powering homes with generators.
“If people are powering something in their homes with a generator, it needs to be a proper connection,” Sanders said. “We don’t want anyone engineering a connection that is not up to code.”
Sanders said proper ventilation is also key.
“Generators are internal combustion engines and they produce carbon monoxide,” Sanders said. “They need to be run in a well-ventilated place and a place where fumes won’t come into the window.”
“Carbon monoxide is a very potent poison,” Sanders added.
The storm’s impact to surrounding counties varied.
In Hamilton County, Sheriff Doug Timmons reported no power outages or damage.
Calhoun County Sheriff Scott Anderson reported some broken utility poles and downed trees throughout the county.
“We were pretty fortunate overall,” Anderson said.
In Humboldt County, Melody Larson, Humboldt County emergency management coordinator, said the storms caused some downed power lines along Gotch Park Road. The lines have since been repaired by MidAmerican Energy Co., she said.
Larson also said a hailstorm that swept through Thor on Monday night caused significant damage.
“Every home in Thor was impacted by that storm,” Larson said.
According to Larson, dozens of homes and cars had windows busted out by the baseball-sized hailstones. Cracked and damaged siding on homes could also be seen, she said.
“For small towns, it’s hard to come back from these events,” Larson said.
She said Renwick, which was hit hard by straight line winds in July 2016, is just starting to get back to normal again.
A few branches were down throughout Pocahontas County, according to the Pocahontas County sheriff’s office.
James Lester, Wright County Emergency Management coordinator, said there was damage to private residences.
According to Lester, Eagle Grove may have been hit the hardest in Wright County.
“They had quite a few trees down and power lines down,” Lester said.
Lester said the straight line winds moved through the area at about 9:30 p.m. Tuesday night.
Gov. Terry Branstad also declared Kossuth County a disaster area Wednesday.
No injuries were reported relating to the storms.
Food safety message from Webster County Health Department
• If the power is out longer than two hours, throw away food that has a temperature higher than 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
• If the power is out for less than four hours, then the food in your refrigerator and freezer will be safe to consume. While the power is out, keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to keep food cold for longer.
If the power is out for longer than four hours, follow the guidelines below:
• For the freezer section: A freezer that is half full will hold food safely for up to 24 hours. A full freezer will hold food safely for 48 hours. Do not open the freezer door if you can avoid it.
• Throw away any food that has a temperature of more than 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
• Thawed or partially thawed food in the freezer may be safely refrozen if it still contains ice crystals or is at 40 degrees F or below. Partial thawing and refreezing may affect the quality of some food, but the food will be safe to eat.
• If you keep an appliance thermometer in your freezer, it’s easy to tell whether food is safe. When the power comes back on, check the thermometer. If it reads 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below, the food is safe and can be refrozen.
• Never taste food to determine its safety. You can’t rely on appearance or odor to determine whether food is safe.
Note: Always discard any items in the freezer that have come into contact with raw meat juices.