Strong Storms Knock Out Power, Down Trees Across Kansas City Metro

Jul 23, 2017

UPDATED at 4:50 p.m. Monday, July 24.

Generators were buzzing in backyards across the Kansas City metro after severe thunderstorms knocked out power to tens of thousands Saturday night.

As of about 3 p.m. Monday, about 19,000 Kansas City Power & Light customers were still waiting for the lights to come back on.

KCP&L spokesman Jeremy McNeive said the company had crews working to restore service through the night, and expected to resolve the outages by the end of the day Monday.

"We had over 200 linemen out there working last night," he said. 

McNeive said that power was restored to 13,000 customers overnight leaving 24,000 still without power Monday morning. 

A tree downed by Saturday's storm snapped a utility pole and blocked Buena Vista Street near 57th Terrace in Fairway, Kansas.
Credit Amy Jeffries / KCUR 89.3

All told, KCP&L counted nearly 140,000 outages from the storms, mostly in Clay and Jackson counties in Missouri, and Johnson County, Kansas. Some Independence Power & Light and Kansas City Board of Public Utilities customers also lost service.

McNeive says wind was the culprit, pulling down power lines and utility poles.

“You know, when you get up to that 70-mile-per-hour wind, you know, that’ll push those wires down,” McNeive said.

Shortly before 10 p.m. Saturday, the National Weather Service was warning of strong thunderstorms and predicting wind gusts up to 40 miles per hour. By 11:30 p.m. the agency was reporting actual gusts of 60 and 70 mile per hour across the metro.

The strongest gust was clocked at 85 miles per hour in DeSoto, Kansas, according to said Scott Blair, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. Another gust estimated to be 85 miles per hour caused widespread damage in Lenexa.

“It’s essentially comparable to a low-end hurricane that you would see along the Gulf Coast when you have a very widespread area of very strong wind gusts between 60 and 80 miles an hour,” Blair said.

The Weather Service itself lost power at its office in Pleasant Hill Saturday night, but continued to operate on a generator.

Blair said it’s typical for the middle of the country to get this kind of severe weather in the summer.

“They load a lot of water high up into the atmosphere, and what goes up must come down. And it comes crashing down and we get these big thunderstorms producing a lot of widespread wind damage,” Blair said.

Traffic lights went out along Shawnee Mission Parkway in Fairway, Kansas. Sunday, the greeting at Constentino's Brookside Market in Kansas City, Missouri was "welcome to the wasteland" as the meat and dairy shelves were cleared and the frozen section blocked off with shopping carts after the power outage.

In hard-hit Roeland Park, the two tons of dry ice KCP&L had to give away to help preserve food in hobbled freezers went very fast Sunday. McNieve said the power company was working with its supplier to get more. Monday the company announced it'd be giving away dry ice again at the Home Depot on Linwood Boulevard in midtown Kansas City, Missouri starting at 1 p.m.

And the company was warning its customers on Facebook to take precautions in the heat, like drinking water and wearing loose-fitting clothes, and encouraged people to call 2-1-1 for information about local cooling centers.

The heat index is forecast to be in the lower 90s Monday, but could climb into triple digits again Tuesday.

Because of all the debris from severe thunderstorms that struck across the Kansas City metro Saturday night, the Prairie Village pool was closed Sunday. But some residents were still out in bathing suits, doing their own clean-up in 100-degree heat.

Wayne Cerovich spent his Sunday afternoon picking up branches strewn across his yard in Prairie Village, Kansas by Saturday's storms.
Credit Amy Jeffries / KCUR 89.3

Wayne Cerovich had his generator running and was staying cool with a damp towel under his hat as he picked up the mess of branches strewn across his yard in Prairie Village.

“We’ve got nice big trees. They come with comfort and a little extra work now and then,” Cerovich said.

Amy Jeffries is editor of KCUR's Kansas News Service. Follow her on Twitter @amyoverhere.