Funnel clouds dance in sky
There was plenty of excitement around 5 p.m. Friday when funnel clouds were spotted around Baldwin City. Tornado sirens sounded, but there were no reports of the funnels touching down and no damage.
Becky Dick, who lives with her family north of Baldwin City, said one of the funnel clouds passed over their home and raised a neighbor's trampoline and other items. As strange as that was, it was the sound of the funnel that she remembers most.
"It just went sailing over the trees," Dick said of the trampoline. "I had just gone outside. Our hammock was spinning. I went out to get it and hear the classic freight train sound. I didn't see anything. But, I heard it.
"I said, 'oh my God,'" she said. "We went to the basement ... for about 20 seconds. We went back up and could see it going away. I just couldn't believe it. It really does sound like a freight train. It tossed a lot of things around at our neighbor's, but didn't do any major damage."
Oddly enough, Dick's sister, Karen Parmly, lives a few miles to the north with her family. The area is roughly three miles north of Baldwin City along Douglas County 600 North Road (Zarco Road).
"We were facing southwest and we knew the tornado was moving southeast, so we weren't worried about our safety," said Parmly. "It was amazing. I knew it was headed to my sister's house, so I called her. Just about the time it disappated, the sirens went off in Baldwin.
"I've lived in Kansas all my life and I've never seen one," she said.
It's not quite the same for Dick, but close.
"We've been in them, but never seen them," she said. "I've never heard that sound. We must have been in the basement.
"It is just so eerie," said Dick. "I didn't think about whether it was above me or behind me. It was pretty exciting. By the time I thought about getting the camcorder, it was gone. We lived through it."
From there, the funnel cloud headed to Baldwin City and caused quite a stir, too. The tornado sirens went off shortly before 5 p.m. and weren't on long. The area was in a tornado watch from then until 5:30 p.m., but no other funnels were spotted.
"It was right above us, west and north of FireTree (Estates)," said Dave Hill from his vantage point at MidAmerica Bank on U.S. Highway 56. "It went back up in the cloud. It was very thin."
Across the street at Baldwin City Market, shoppers were told to take refuge.
"I noticed it when I pulled into Baldwin City Market," said Steve Rottinghaus, PR director for Baker University. "One of the market workers was standing outside watching the cloud. I had never been that close to one. It had a long tail with a slow rotation and was dipping down.
"I told the worker, 'Shouldn't the tornado sirens be sounding?' Everyone in the market was told to get to the back of the building," he said. "About five minutes later, the sirens started to sound."
The storm was an odd one, according to many accounts, including Parmly. Near the Parmly home, two rounds of small hail covered the ground.
"There was a bunch of it," said Parmly. "The hail came through twice. I said, 'what is that noise?' It was just an eighth of a mile north of us. It was hail. It just opened up on us. Just after that, the tornado showed up two miles to the south of us."
However, it was opposite for her sister those two miles south. They had the tornado, but not much else.
"We didn't have any hail or much rain," said Dick.
That wasn't the only oddity.
"What's unusual is that storms normally move northeast," said Parmly. "This one was opposite of that. That was something different."