Friday’s wind damage estimated at $2 million

Dagit’s auction house on W. McKinley St

The straight-line winds that went through Jefferson Friday evening caused an estimated $2 million in damage according to Greene County emergency management director Dennis Morlan.

Morlan agrees with the National Weather Service that it wasn’t a tornado that caused damage in the two blocks either side of McKinley Street from Vine St west to Grimmell Road. He explained it as an updraft-downdraft system, with warmer air rising and colliding with colder air, creating the extreme winds that sucked debris up and dropped it back down again.

He had monitored the weather closely throughout the afternoon, he said, but was taken totally by surprise by the damaging wind. He was less than two blocks away and didn’t know of it until the power went off. The first call came in from a resident of Sundown Court. A garage door blown and landed on a house on Sundown Court, causing significant damage. Morlan learned the garage door had come from N. West St.

Morlan called Greene County fire chief Jack Williams, and he was incident commander. He called for the storm sirens to be activated.

Morlan surmises the storm moved from the northeast to the southwest, with Finch’s Holiday RV the first place to sustain damage. He estimated damage done to six campers there would total $250,000 or more. He added that a camper displayed by Harrison RV at the corner of N. Elm St and E. Central Ave had flipped in a way that supported his northeast to southwest theory. (Storms more typically move to the northeast.)

A utility pole broken off from the top

There was also major damage to a home on the east end of Adams St, Morlan said.

Significant damage was done to commercial buildings on McKinley St including the northeast corner of Bomgaars, Tronchettis’ storage building, Casey’s General Store, the Dagit auction house, Genesis Development and the former Wahl-McAtee Tire & Service Center. Several houses were damaged, and the youth softball and baseball fields were damaged also.

When the winds went through a trucker was backing up to the loading dock at Bomgaars. A power line came down on the cab of the truck and the driver was unable to get out until power was cut.

On N. Maple St

Morlan said people driving around to see damage increased the evening’s challenges. “There were so many gawkers it was dangerous for everyone out there,” he said. “There were multiple power lines down and families were driving right over them,” he said.
Williams called the Jefferson, Paton, Churdan and Grand Junction fire departments to help with traffic control and scene safety. “When people go out sightseeing they put themselves in danger and they jeopardize the safety of the responders, too,” Morlan said.

Several utility poles were snapped in the wind. The electricity was out in parts of Jefferson for three hours, and in other parts for longer. Alliant Energy crews were still at work Saturday afternoon to restore power on McKinley St.

Morlan discussed priorities with Alliant Friday night. The medical center was using its generators but had enough fuel for only four hours.

Jefferson public works crews were also part of the response, as an additional concern was the water and waste water systems. Most of Jefferson’s water comes from a well on the east edge of town on Highway 30. Electricity failed there, and the generator is awaiting parts for repair. The lift stations that are an integral part of the waste water system also have electric pumps.

Electricity to the medical center and to the water/sewer system were the priority, and both were taken care of without further impact on the public.

Morlan, as he often does, praised the emergency responders. “We had quality assistance from the fire departments that all jumped in to help. We’re a small county, but when something hits the fan, everyone works together,” he said. “I’m proud of the troops. Everyone works together for the good of the county.”

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