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Father’s Day storms unleash tornadoes, damaging winds, hail, heavy rain, flooding PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wauneta Breeze   
Thursday, 23 June 2011 20:45

The Frenchman River west of Wauneta crested Monday night after several days of heavy rainfall across the region. The river water creeps into the yard at the Jeff and Billie Muehlenkamp home, located on the River Road west of Wauneta. (Tina Kitt | The Wauneta Breeze)


By Tina Kitt

The Wauneta Breeze


Tornadoes, large hail, flash floods, high winds, heavy rain, violent lightning. Pick your poison — the round of storms that raked the area had it all. One angry red mass after another hurled across radar screens Sunday afternoon into the early morning hours of Monday as the region was battered by a series of storm cells as cold dry air from the north collided with cool moist air as it pushed south across the nation’s midsection.

National Weather Service and Code Red emergency notifications went out repeatedly Sunday, Monday and Tuesday warning southwest Nebraska residents of tornadoes, severe thunderstorms and flooding. According to National Weather Service reports golf-ball-size hail and heavy rains hit Wauneta late Sunday night after tornadoes were sighted earlier in the day in Dundy County.

With chainsaw in hand, Kenny Lawless works to cut a away a large tree that crashed onto Keri Sutherland’s home in east Wauneta as Colby Skelton, helps remove debris on the ground. While several trees were knocked down in the storm that struck just after midnight late Sunday night, Sutherland’s home appears to have sustained the most extensive damage in Wauneta. (Taylor Lutz | The Wauneta Breeze)


Area crops took a beating for another year, with areas both north and south of Wauneta experiencing significant damage and crop losses.

Farmers are optimistic that fields of young corn will be able to recover, but several ripening wheat fields were mowed down by the large hail that fell Sunday night or by smaller hail accompanied by high winds that moved through Monday afternoon rendering them complete losses.

Rainfall amounts varied widely across the region, with 3.75 reported by the NWS in Wauneta during Sunday’s and Monday’s two-day event. According to data made available over the Nebraska Rainfall Assessment and Information Network two-day totals from around the area include:

A center pivot sprinkler near Fred and Betty Krausnicks’ west of Wauneta along Highway 6 was overturned Sunday night in the high, possibly tornadic, winds. (Tina Kitt | The Wauneta Breeze)


• 6.46 inches south of Enders.

• More than 5 inches in Hayes Center.

• 4.84 inches north of Enders

• 4.45 inches north of Wauneta on the Chase/Hayes County line.

• 3.92 inches south of Wauneta across the Dundy County line.

• 3.82 inches in Hamlet.

• 2.80 inches in Imperial.

• 2.42 inches in Palisade.

• 5-8 inches in the Sutherland/Hershey area.

Many long-time Wauneta residents said Monday’s rising water levels were as high as they had seen the Frenchman climb in decades. Heavy rains on both the North and South Divide sent water cascading through the canyons, gullies and ravines as it made its way downhill to the Frenchman. Water levels peaked Monday night, dropping considerably by Tuesday morning. Two-day precipitation totals Sunday and Monday were in excess of 5 inches in some localities around the Wauneta area. (Tina Kitt | The Wauneta Breeze)


Power outages were widespread during the storm Sunday night.

According to Colyn Suda with Southwest Public Power District areas hit particularly hard were the north circuit out of Wauneta, areas south of Wauneta and in the Haigler region.

As of Monday morning 150 services were still without power. By Tuesday, however, Suda noted that power had been restored to nearly all services.

Three poles went down in Sunday’s series of thunderstorms, contributing to the power outages. Downed trees and phase lines knocking together in the high winds also caused power losses.

Kenny Lawless shimmies up the limb of a large cottonwood tree that was sent crashing on top of Keri Sutherland’s home in east Wauneta late Sunday night. Lawless and Colby Skelton helped remove the tree from Sutherland’s damaged house. (Taylor Lutz | The Wauneta Breeze)


In Wauneta, several residents reported power outages after electrical service boxes were pulled away from their homes in Sunday night’s high winds.

The Keri Sutherland home in east Wauneta suffered significant damage when a large tree fell on her house.

West of Wauneta near the Fred and Betty Krausnick farm a center pivot was overturned Sunday night.

Nearly every property owner in Wauneta suffered some form of damage from the hail and wind. Village employees assisted with clean-up Monday and Tuesday and made plans to gather truckloads of debris and haul it to a dump site outside of town on privately owned property as the Wauneta tree and grass pile quickly filled to capacity Monday morning.

Several tornado and funnel cloud sightings were reported in Dundy County north of Benkelman Sunday afternoon and evening, including this twister photographed by Jeanne Hansen of rural Benkelman. No damage was associated with these tornadoes locally, but as this storm system moved east it spawned damaging tornaodes in central and eastern Nebraska. (Courtesy Photo by Jeanne Hansen)


Roadway flooding

Heavy rainfall Sunday led the NWS to issue a flash flood watch for most of the rest of the state not already flooding. Monday afternoon and evening’s downpours only aggravated the situation as water poured into Wauneta from all sides leading the Frenchman to rise dramatically.

Longtime Wauneta residents remember having to deal with flooded businesses and home every few years prior to the river project during which the river berms were constructed and new bridges were built.

Hail destroyed crops in isolated pockets in multiple vicinities within the Breeze coverage area including some especially hard hit fields north and south of Wauneta. An hour after the storm had passed golf ball-sized hail remained in drifts along the road with the steam it created in the late spring heat knocking visibility to zero near the Hank Wicke home in rural Dundy County. (Tina Kitt | The Wauneta Breeze)


Most were in agreement that Monday night’s crest was the highest they had seen the river in Wauneta since the completion of those flood-prevention measures in the 1980s.

West of Wauneta the River Road lived up to its name as the Frenchman spilled over its banks onto the road.

Water made its way alarmingly close to the Jeff and Billie Muehlenkamp home west of Wauneta. Dirt piles were hurriedly put in place with the use of a loader tractor Monday evening to help keep water diverted away from the house.

Traffic across Enders Dam was halted for all but priority traffic for a short time Monday evening as emergency responders assessed the safety of travel across the structure after runoff from heavy rains caused a portion of the grassy-covered side of the earthen dam to wash away.  Traffic was allowed back across the dam later Monday night. (Russ Pankonin | Imperial Republican)


According to Chase County Commissioner Chuck Vette many roads will need to be rebuilt after going underwater, but only a couple in the Enders area were washed away.

There were concerns at Enders Dam Monday night when a portion of the grassy embankment on the east side washed away. The dam was closed to traffic for a limited time as the situation was assessed.

By Monday morning Wauneta looked like a giant weed-eater had torn through town, uprooting trees and tearing down limbs and branches like this one at Wilva Harchelroad’s. (Taylor Lutz | The Wauneta Breeze)


Stunned wildlife like this possum emerged from cover after Sunday’s hail storm. While this little guy survived, the once lush South Divide wheat field behind him was totalled by the storm. (Tina Kitt | The Wauneta Breeze)


This young cottonwood tree was snapped in half during high winds Sunday night/early Monday morning. Numerour trees suffered damage at the park, including an evergreen located near Highway 6 which was uprooted. (Taylor Lutz | The Wauneta Breeze)

Last Updated on Thursday, 23 June 2011 20:54