Thursday evening was a long night for emergency personnel and public works employees alike.
A severe thunderstorm sped through McPherson County Thursday evening, leaving large hail, fallen tree limbs and heavy rain behind it.
“The damage wasn’t too severe — a lot of the storm passed over us,” said McPherson County Sheriff Jerry Montagne.
Northeast of McPherson, lightning struck an oil tank battery, causing an explosion that could be felt two miles away.
“This was a heck of a deal. It blew the tank probably 80 feet up and all the other tanks were on fire. It was quite a deal to see all those tanks on fire at once,” said Wayne Williams, chief of the Galva Fire Department. “A lot of times the lighting will strike one tank and it will burn, then we can put that tank out so it doesn’t heat and blow another tank up.”
The oil tank, located at 18th Avenue and Mohawk Road, was monitored by Galva, McPherson and Canton fire departments.
“The crude oil product in the tanks was low, so there wasn’t a lot there to burn. When it blew up, we let it burn out and didn’t put any water on it at all,” Williams said. “If there had been more oil in there, we’d have had to put foam on it to put it out, but it was the best possible scenario for this situation.”
Though the explosion occurred in a wheat field, the wheat had already been cut so there was no damage to crops.
“There was no crop damage and it happened during the rain. We’d had at least an inch and a half to two inches of rain already, so there was no way the wheat stubble would burn because there was so much moisture. The oil tanks were the only things that were damaged.”
In Lindsborg, multiple power lines went down and a number of fallen tree limbs created larger issues.
“We had several calls for tree limbs on power lines. Some were causing some arching an small fires. Public works basically handled the calls after the fire department was dispatched,” said Lindsborg Police Chief Tim Berggren. “They were out all night working on getting power restored throughout the city and getting limbs off lines. It was a longer night for public works more than it was for public safety.”
The Lindsborg Public Works department dealt with a number of downed power lines, with the majority of those involving a tree limb on the line between power poles and homes.
“The city has a pretty aggressive policy on trimming tree limbs away from power lines on the poles, but we don’t control a lot of the tree limbs between the pole and the home,” Berggren said. “The majority of our calls were about those, though we did have some about the poles.”
Lindsborg Public Works director Chris Lindholm explained that homeowners can prevent some of these situations by checking tree limb growth by power lines each year.
“We go after our main line stuff, but it’s challenging to go on to the homeowners property all the time to trim those trees. We try to encourage homeowners to be aware of that and keep ahead of that,” Lindholm said. “It’s very important that homeowners keep an eye on their service lines and keep them fairly open to electrical service. If they can trim their tree limbs back from above the line, so that if they do fall, they don’t fall down on the line.”
Contact Cheyenne Derksen Schroeder by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her stories on Twitter at @MacSentinel.