Storm leads to busy night for first responders

Chad Frey
The Kansan
During a storm on June 25 that left downed tree limbs and damage in its wake, Harvey County 911 dispatchers took a call load that was more than double normal.

A thunderstorm with heavy rain and high winds that swept through the area June  25 left damage in its wake — and tired first responders as well. 

The activity for 911 dispatchers was nearly as heavy as the rain, as evidenced by numbers Harvey County Communications Director Don Gruver shared with the Harvey County Commission this week.  

"It was a very active Friday night," Gruver said. "... Last Friday night during the storm, between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m., we had 275 phone calls and 231 CAD entries. The vast majority of that was in the hour between 7 and 8 [p.m.]."

June 18, the previous Friday, the 911 center fielded 95 phone calls between 6 and 10 p.m.

During the storm dispatchers took one call for a water rescue, along with 63 for electrical lines down and five reports of storm damage including the roof coming off the USD 373 Bus Barn. In all, the center took about 100  weather related calls. 

Normally, there would be about three dispatchers on a Friday night. On this night, Gruver called in an extra dispatcher — and a daytime dispatcher came in to help voluntarily. There were three people on the phones,  and two on the radios, during the storm. 

"Our people waded through it, and went home very tired that evening," Gruver said. "... It was a very active evening. ... THe loose dog calls, the non-injury accident calls, those still came in during the storm."

According to Gary Denny, emergency management director for the county, an average of four and five inches fell on Newton that night, with more than six inches in North Newton. 

"That was in about a four or five hour period," Denny said.

Coupled with winds, there was damage throughout the county. If the county can account for more than $135,000 in unisured damages, the county can file for assistance. For the state to eligible for federal aid, damages must hit more than $4 million statewide. 

Denny is doubtful there will be enough damages reported to pursue federal funding. 

"I have not heard of other counties that had as much damage as Harvey County," Denny said. "If there are other counties that had damage, for the state to qualify for federal funding, that is just over $4.1 million. We have a ways to go on that."

The Harvey County Detention Center lost a generator during the storm, county staff is investigating the cost of either repair or replacement of the generator. 

Newton USD 373 will be filing insurance claims for damage to Lindley Hall, where a portion of the face of the building peeled away, and for damage at the bus barn on West First street where the roof was damaged. 

"We had some severe damage, the roof on the service center and the facade on Lindley Hall fell to the ground. It was mainly wind damage," said Fred Van Rankin, superintendent of schools "That will mean another insurance claim filed.  ... Our maintence department was right on it on Friday when I got over there. They made sure the buildings were secure and things were safe. ... They rechecked those buildings to make sure things were good."