Powerful storms down trees, knock out power to thousands in JoCo

The high wind advisory and severe thunderstorms in Johnson County on Wednesday led to more than 13,000 residents without power and several reports of fallen trees Wednesday evening. Above, the Overland Park Fire Department responds to a tree that fell into a house as a result of heavy winds in Overland Park. Photo via Overland Park Fire Department tweet.

This story was last updated at 5:45 a.m., Thursday, Dec. 16. 

About 2,700 Evergy customers in Johnson County remained without power Thursday morning, after a rare December system of severe thunderstorms rolled through the Kansas City metro Wednesday night.

The storms packed 70 mile per hour winds. In some areas, hail described as “tennis ball sized” fell.

There were multiple reports of trees falling on homes in northern Johnson County, and a 14-year-old boy was hospitalized after being struck by a falling tree in Shawnee.

‘Multi-day restoration’

Officials with Evergy say it could take two to three days for all its customers in Kansas and Missouri to be fully back online.

Chuck Caisley, Evergy’s chief customer officer, said in a Wednesday night press release that the heavy winds and thunderstorms resulted in “one of the highest, if not the highest outage event” ever for the utility.

The company reported some 200,000 customers in Kansas and Missouri without power at the storm’s peak, Caisley said.

At the storm’s peak, the utility reported more than 13,000 Johnson County customers without power.

About 28,000 customers in the Kansas City metro area lost power, as well as 25,000 customers in Salina, Kan., and 27,000 in St. Joseph, Mo., he said.

Caisley said more than 1,100 Evergy employees — from lineman to customer service personnel — had been deployed, working on restoring power across the region.

Evergy called in reinforcements from utility companies in Texas, Colorado, Arkansas and Oklahoma, he said. Still, it would be “impossible” to restore all customers within 24 hours.

“With this number of people impacted, this number of folks without power and the number of outage events that we have, this is absolutely going to be a multi-day restoration,” Caisley said. “We will not be able to get everybody back on tonight, we will not be able to get everybody back on tomorrow. This outage is going to extend in some areas into multiple days as the amount of damage would be impossible to get done in a 24-hour period.”

Falling trees damage homes, injure teenager

Throughout the day yesterday, Johnson County experienced sustained gusts topping 30 miles per hour.

During Wednesday’s high wind warning, falling trees damaged several northern Johnson County homes.

Overland Park, Shawnee, Mission, and Prairie Village all saw at least one structure damaged by falling tree branches or entire trees.

In Overland Park, a large tree fell on a home at 72nd Terrace and Lamar Avenue shortly after 3 p.m. No one was home at the time, and no injuries were reported.

Another large tree fell on a home near 73rd Terrace and Stearns Street, a block off of Switzer, about 5:40 p.m. Again, no injuries were reported.

KSHB tweeted pictures of the damage to that home.

Both homes are uninhabitable until the trees are removed, and repairs are completed.

A falling tree also injured a 14-year-old boy as he walked home shortly before 4 p.m. Wednesday. It happened in Shawnee along 67th Street just west of Mullen Road.

The tree, estimated to have been about 20 feet tall with a 5-8 inch diameter. The tree hit a chain-link fence before hitting the teen in the back.

Shawnee police arrived to find the boy on the ground. Officers at the scene said he was alert and talking but complained of back pains.

Shawnee Fire and Johnson County Med-Act responded. He was transported to an area pediatric hospital to get checked out. His injuries were described as non-life-threatening.

There were more scenes of damage from Lenexa, too.

A tree fell onto a residential street in Old Town Lenexa, according to a Lenexa Police Department tweet. The department encouraged the public to stay inside.

The heavy winds also caused one Lenexan’s fence to collapse.

An ‘anomalous event’

A strong line of thunderstorms entered Johnson County starting at around 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Brent Pesel, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service’s Kansas City field office, said December storms that impact this much of the country are usually snow storms in the north.

“This is certainly an anomalous event compared to what we would normally think of for December weather,” Pesel said.

Johnson County and much of the rest of the Kansas City metro remained under a high wind warning until midnight tonight.

Wednesday began with gusts of winds reaching 40 miles per hour in the afternoon, according to the National Weather Service’s  Kansas City field office.

Hours later, forecasters issued a severe thunderstorm warning for parts of Johnson County, including Overland Park, Lenexa and Olathe.

The office warned at that time that storms could result in 70 miles per hour winds and hail the size of ping pong balls, according to a tweet.

Pesel said the thunderstorms have passed Johnson County as of 7:30 p.m., but heavy winds are expected until 9:30 p.m to 11:30 p.m.

On Thursday, Pesel said people should “be aware of their surroundings” — especially when picking up limbs or other items the storms and heavy winds may have blown around.

Post editor Kyle Palmer and freelance reporter Mike Frizzell contributed to this report.