Straight-line winds cause damage to property in rural areas of Douglas County
Douglas County resident James Marshall knows it sounds cliché, but around 11 p.m. Wednesday he woke up to what sounded like a freight train coming through his home about four miles south of Lawrence.
“That’s exactly what it sounded like,” Marshall said, surveying damage to his property. “You could feel the change in pressure in the air, even inside the house. The house was shaking. Everything they’ve ever described, that’s what it was.”
When daylight hit Thursday, Marshall realized just how bad the damage was. Nearly every tree on his property was either sheared off, snapped in half, or uprooted entirely. One of the trees laid across the bed of a red pickup truck in his driveway.
“It’s surreal. Eighteen years of looking at all these big, beautiful trees. Now all I see is sky,” Marshall said. “It just breaks my heart.”
Down the road, Tara Stucky and her husband said the storm hit so fast, they didn’t even have time to get their three kids to the basement or bring their dogs inside.
“The thing to remember is sometimes these storms are moving faster than you think,” Stucky said. “My kids will probably go to the basement now for severe thunderstorm warnings.”
Stucky said a weather radio alerted her family of the approaching storm, but they weren’t prepared for the damage caused by straight-line winds.
“I definitely wasn’t expecting it,” she said, looking at a giant elm tree that was completely uprooted and laying across the roof of her house, right above where her son had been sleeping.
Stucky said the winds also caused her house to shake and knocked picture frames off of the walls inside.
“It was a horrible sound. I remember the debris and the sound of trees falling, hitting the barn, the shed and the fence,” she said.
Douglas County’s Emergency Management Director Teri Smith said National Weather Service officials from Topeka on Thursday toured two sites — Marshall’s neighborhood and a farm near Globe, along U.S. Highway 56 — because residents were convinced a tornado caused the damage. But Smith said it was determined straight line winds at speeds of up to 80 mph caused the damage.
A representative from a tree service surveying the damage on Marshall’s property, estimated it was going to cost at least $3,000 to clean up the damage.
Marshall said the trees were his pride and joy.
“I’ll dig into my wallet today, get them cleaned up and plant some new ones,” he said.
A photo gallery showing damage from the area can be found here.