Kansas City Power & Light said it could take all weekend or possibly into Monday to restore power to everyone, after strong storms with gusts up to 80 mph and heavy rains swept through the Kansas City metro area early Friday.
In fact, Troy Schulte, city manager in Kansas City, said this appears to be the worst tree and power line damage since the 2002 ice storm, with 40,000 public trees damaged in some way in the city.
A lot of the damage occurred in the urban core, said Courtney Hughley, a spokeswoman for KCP&L.
“At the height of the storm, we had about 110,000 customers without power,” she said. “That’s one of our largest storms in the past decade.”
The storm stretched from Springfield to Maryville, Mo., and had winds of 60 to 70 mph with gusts up to 80 mph.
The strong winds brought down trees, which in turn knocked down power lines and power poles, Hughley said.
Hundreds of small power outages affecting several thousand customers throughout the Kansas City area continued Saturday morning. Outages affecting the largest number of customers were in the Mission Hills and Westwood areas on the Kansas side of the state line and located in pockets throughout midtown, northeast and eastern sections of Kansas City.
“This was an urban storm,” KCP&L vice president of marketing and public affairs Chuck Caisley said.
He said 1,100 KCP&L workers had been out trying to restore power all day Friday and would be assisted by 200 to 250 more workers from out-of-town utilities beginning Saturday.
Caisley said the utility hopes to have power restored to 90 percent of metro area residents by the end of the day Saturday. But then the tough work of restoring power to smaller clusters of neighbors and even single residences begins, and Caisley said it may take until late Sunday or even Monday to get the final customers back in business.
“We’re going to picking up customers one at a time after Saturday,” Caisley said.
Higher than average rainfall in May and June weakened root systems, Caisley said, making trees vulnerable to the raging winds.
“Because there are so many trees that are down, there are a lot of downed wires,” Hughley said. “Obviously we are very concerned about people’s safety, so we want to make sure people stay away from those downed lines.”
The storm forced some businesses throughout the area to close or get creative.
McClain’s Bakery in Waldo lacked power until about 1:45 p.m. Friday. Employees decorated a wedding cake in sunlight streaming through the front window, since the kitchen was dark.
“We couldn’t make anything all morning,” said employee Caroline Hirleman. “We were on our way to buy dry ice for the refrigerator when we got a text telling us power was back.”
Employees planned to reopen Saturday.
The storms roared through the Kansas City area between 1:30 and 3 a.m. Friday, said Jenni Laflin, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
“The main thing we saw was straight-line wind damage,” she said. “We had some estimated as high as 75 to 85 mph. There’s some damage that fits with that as well.”
The quick moving storms — traveling southeast at 45 to 50 mph — also dumped 2 to 4 inches of rain across the metropolitan area. There were a few places that were hit harder where 4 inches and more of rain fell, Laflin said.
“Unfortunately, Mosby got hit hard again and flooded again,” she said.
The power outages forced some school districts across the area canceled summer classes for Friday, including Kansas City and Independence.
The Smithville school district said its district office and the Smithville High School were closed Friday because of fires caused by lightning strikes. The district still planned to have summer school as scheduled.
In Kansas City, the storm knocked out power to parks and water services headquarters on 63rd Street near Swope Park, and at two fire stations, so those employees and firefighters were working from other buildings or in the field. By late Friday, power had been restored to those facilities.
Kansas City urged people to report downed trees that are in the public right of way by call 311 or contacting the city at @KCMO311 on Twitter. More information and tips are available at kcmo.gov.
Schulte said the 311 Action Center had received 3,000 calls about storm impacts Friday. The 311 Action Center was scheduled to take calls again from 8 a.m. to at least noon Saturday, and possibly later, for people to report further problems.
Schulte estimated that 40,000 public trees had been damaged in some way by the storm. He did not yet have an estimate of the cost of the storm, but the city has a $5 million contingency fund to deal with this type of emergency.
“Obviously a very severe line of storms rolled through early this morning,” Schulte said, noting that the storm’s path went through heavily wooded parts of the city including Platte County north of the Missouri River, Old Northeast, the urban core and Brookside.
“We will be doing cleanup mode for a while,” he said, while praising the 1,500 city workers who got out as early as 4 a.m. Friday and worked throughout the day on cleanup. The city expects to have many workers continuing cleanup throughout the weekend.
“This was a bad storm but I think the city handled it well,” Schulte said.
To assist people who don’t have power and require electricity for medical or other needs, Kansas City and the Red Cross partnered in opening the Gregg Klice Community Center, 1600 Buck O’Neil Way (near the 18th and Vine Historic District), as an emergency overnight shelter Friday night.
People can also call the shelter for more information at 816-513-0652.
Hours for the city’s three leaf-and-brush dropoff sites, with no fees for storm debris removal, will be 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at 11660 North Main in the Northland, 1815 N. Chouteau Trafficway just south of the river and at 10303 Raytown Road.
Schulte said the city is also still assessing whether a curbside debris pickup program will be warranted. In the meantime, bulky item pickup is suspended for next week in Kansas City to allow those crews to concentrate on storm debris removal.
Gladstone announced that its public works regional brush facility at 4000 N.E. 76th St., will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday for disposal of storm debris. Residents can dump storm debris free of charge during these days with proof of residency.
Also because of the power outages, traffic signals across the metropolitan area were not functioning or were flashing.
The Raytown Police Department told drivers via Twitter that the signals on Missouri 350 were not working and to be careful when approaching intersections.
The police department said to treat the traffic signals that were not working as four-way stops. Police urged motorists to be courteous to others.
The damage appeared to be widespread with numerous reports of large trees or tree limbs down, some into power lines and others into roads.
Clay County authorities closed U.S. 69 near Mosby for a while because of flash flooding. Shortly after 8:30 a.m., the sheriff reported that the highway was back open in both directions.
The Clay County sheriff also reported that water was over the Fishing River Bridge on Missouri Route H east of Missouri Route JJ. Water was also over the roadway at Jesse James Farm Road and 132nd Street.
No serious injuries have been reported.
This weekend, however, is shaping up to be extremely nice with highs around 80 degrees. Dryer air is also moving in on Saturday. While Sunday there is a chance of storms, they possibly will be to the east of Kansas City.
If that occurs, this will be the first weekend it hasn’t rained since March 21st. Unfortunately, some people likely will be spending the time cleaning up after Friday’s storm.
“At least the weather is cooperating for them,” Laflin said.
The Star’s Austin Huguelet and The Associated Press contributed to this story.
To reach Robert A. Cronkleton, call 816-234-4261 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.