Jaclyn and Ben Voran hurried home to Prairie Village Sunday, fearing the sight of their fire-destroyed home in the aftermath of ravaging storms that swept through the Kansas City area overnight.
Nearly 100,000 people woke up without power Sunday morning amid downed trees and power lines, with some outages expected to stretch into Monday under potentially dangerous heat.
But the Vorans, staying at Beaver Lake in Arkansas for the weekend, woke to see a neighbor’s text that the storm had been particularly disastrous for them. Neighbors outside the home Sunday in the 4500 block of West 91st Street said firefighters believe falling tree limbs may have broken a gas line that exploded in flames.
They had lived in the house only since March after remodeling it, Jaclyn Voran said by phone while en route from Arkansas Sunday afternoon. “It’s pretty shocking.”
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“We’re glad no one was home,” Jaclyn Voran said. “Everything that really matters is here (in their car).”
The storms caused widespread damage across the Kansas City area, with heavy lighting and winds reaching 70 mph in places. The winds knocked down trees and snapped about 200 utility poles, according to Kansas City Power & Light, which reported that as many as 140,000 customers were without power at the height of the outages.
The majority of the damage was in Johnson County, according to KCP&L, with midtown Kansas City being the next hardest hit area.
As of 9 p.m. Sunday, about 37,775 customers remained without power. KCP&L said it expected outages to continue into Monday.
“This will be a multi-day restoration,” said Jeremy McNeive, manager of media communications for KCP&L. “Right now it looks like the bulk of it seems to be downed wires and poles.”
About 600 crews, including linemen from nearby utilities, worked to restore power. The utility handed out dry ice at the Lowe’s store in Roeland Park to help people keep their food fresh.
“It was a big storm — one of the bigger in our history — and it hit at one of the worst times,” said Chuck Caisley, vice president of marketing and public affairs for KCP&L.
Power outages widespread
The outages included Kansas City’s animal shelter on Raytown Road, operated by the KC Pet Project.
Staff members donned headlamps to take care of close to 200 animals Sunday morning until power was restored.
“We do lose power quite a bit,” said Tori Fugate, KC Pet Project’s director of marketing and communications. “Unfortunately with the facility we are in now, there’s no alternative power source. We can’t get a generator to power that building.”
The areas affected the most by power outages were Clay, Johnson and Jackson counties.
Early Sunday, about 1,600 of KCP&L’s customers in Fairway were without power — that was about 85 percent of its customers in that city.
Power was out at the Fairway Shops at Shawnee Mission Parkway and Belinder Avenue.
At the Hen House there, a sign on the door said the store was closed because of the power outage. A manager said the store was getting rid of any perishables damaged during the outage.
The First Watch restaurant in the shopping area was also closed.
Other cities showed a large percent of KCP&L customers without power, including Roeland Park, 68 percent; Mission, 47 percent; Liberty, 34 percent, and Prairie Village, 29 percent.
As of 3 p.m., Independence Power & Light reported that 6,555 customers were without power. Earlier Sunday, nearly 8,000 customers were without power.
The Kansas City, Kan., Board of Public Utilities also reported Sunday morning that 13,804 customers were without power.
Staying cool, cleaning up
The National Weather Service in Pleasant Hill said that while Sunday was not as hot as the last few days, the heat still posed problems for the thousands without air conditioning.
Temperatures on Monday could reach the low 90s, according to the weather service.
During the outages, KCP&L’s McNeive advised people not to touch or pick up any downed power lines. They should assume any downed lines are electrified.
The biggest concern, however, will be the heat.
“People need to take steps stay cool,” McNeive said. “Drink plenty of water, avoid any strenuous activities, wear loose-fitting, natural fiber clothing and limit the number of times you open up the refrigerator to preserve your food.”
People without power should also make plans to find a cool place to go to during the heat of the day.
For a list of cooling stations, contact the United Way of Greater Kansas City’s by dialing 211.
If using a portable generator, make sure it’s in a well-ventilated area. Never use a generator indoors or in a garage. Dangerous carbon monoxide fumes can build up and cause serious injury or death.
One of those without power was Heather St.Clair of Fairway. She was headed home from the Kansas City Royals game with others Saturday night during the storm. As she neared home, branches started falling all around them.
“Right as I was turning on the road, a big tree branch came down and so it stopped us,” she said.
St.Clair inched her way down the street going about five miles an hour and stopping whenever a larger branch fell in front of them.
As St.Clair got about five houses away from home, she heard a loud bang and the 1997 Lincoln Continental she bought a month ago shook. She turned to calm a hysterical passenger and noticed a branch had crashed through the back window.
St.Clair spent Sunday picking up storm debris and waiting for an estimate to fix her car and a fence that had blown over. She had postponed her Sunday house cleaning.
“It kind of put a halt to everything,” said St.Clair, who laughed when asked if she was disappointed to get out of laundry and vacuuming. “Compared to what has happened, I’d much rather be doing house chores.”
KCP&L customers can report outages at homes or businesses by calling 1-888-544-4852 or going online at kcpl.com/outages-and-weather/report-a-power-outage.