Daily Archives: 15 June, 2012

Lightning destroys El Dorado house and Moline church that dated back to 1800s

Lightning from the powerful line of thunderstorms that rolled through the Wichita metropolitan area early Friday morning is being blamed for a fire that destroyed a house in El Dorado and a church in Moline that dated back to the late 1800s.

The owner of the house was awakened by a smoke detector shortly after 2:30 a.m. and found smoke filling the second floor of the three-bedroom house at 321 N. Star that was built in 1880. Firefighters were on scene within eight minutes, El Dorado Fire Capt. Ricke Whiteside said.

The fire ignited and spread inside a 6-inch crawl space between the roof and the second-floor ceiling, Whiteside said, and crews had to peel off the roof and pull down the ceiling to get to the flames.

“Basically, it’s going to be a total loss,” Whiteside said. “There’s no roof or ceiling on the second floor” and the first floor sustained heavy water damage.

As the storms moved east, lightning hit the bell tower of the Moline Christian Church, which Pastor Stan Rumbaugh said may be as much as 130 years old.

Lightning struck the bell tower of the Moline Christian Church shortly before 3 a.m., starting a fire that destroyed the building dating back to the 1880s.

“For a block around the church, people were talking about how felt the shock and heard it” when the lightning hit shortly before 3 a.m.

Though strong gusts of wind hit Moline periodically through the night, Rumbaugh said they were relatively calm while the church burned, sparing St. Mary Catholic Church next door. When the bell tower fell, it missed the house to the north by only a foot or two.

The fire burned the structure down to the brick walls that were installed when the basement was added in 1926, Rumbaugh said. The concrete staircase to the front door now looks like the jump-off point to “the pit” that used to be the basement, he said.

Witnesses said the lightning struck the bell tower, and fire quickly spread through the church, which was about 130 years old.

Folks sorting through the rubble have found pieces of the church bell, as well as reminders of what was used as building materials in the 1880s.

“We’ve been picking up a handful of square nails,” Rumbaugh said.

The 40-member congregation will meet at the American Legion building this Sunday.

“We’re looking at kicking prospects and ideas around” for what they can do down the road, Rumbaugh said. They’ll get a better feel for the possibilities once they get the insurance check from the agent.

For now, as they sifted through the rubble on Friday, it was time to remember – and mourn the loss of the only home they’ve had since the 1800s.

“Some of the emotional feelings are starting to come out,” Rumbaugh said, struggling to keep his voice from breaking.

Civil defense sirens in Hawaii set off by engineer in…Nebraska

Civil defense sirens that sounded across Oahu even though there was no emergency were inadvertently activated from Nebraska, according to the Associated Press.

Hawaii Civil Defense spokeswoman Kelly Kunishige said eight sirens accidentally went off early Thursday because of an engineer doing upgrade work in Nebraska.

Illinois-based Federal Signal has been contracted to do modernization work for Hawaii’s more than 300 sirens across the islands. The state asked the contractor to do some checks, but after doing so, Hawaii’s siren protocols were not removed from the system, allowing some to be activated.

Kunishige says the project will allow sirens to be activated by satellite or cell phone in case radios are down.

The sirens are used during emergencies such as tsunamis.

Tsunami waves struck Hawaii in the aftermath of Japan’s earthquake last year.

Welcome rain fell sideways in Wichita metropolitan area early this morning

Central Kansas and the Wichita metropolitan area were so thirsty for moisture that no one is complaining that most of the rain that fell last night and early this morning seemed to come down sideways thanks to strong winds.

The National Weather Service office next to Mid-Continent Airport logged 1.4 inches of rain and Jabara Airport in northeast Wichita reported 1.46 inches, weather service meteorologist Kevin Darmofal said.

“We all pretty much needed it,” Darmofal said.

There were numerous reports of 2 inches of rain in central Kansas and north of Wichita, including three miles south of Maize and just south of Valley Center. Several reports of between 1.5 and 2 inches were logged into the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network, or CoCoRahs.

A 62-mile-an-hour wind gust was reported in Wellington as the line of storms moved through early this morning, Darmofal said, and a wind gust of 47 miles an hour was reported at the airport.

More storms are possible late tonight and early Saturday morning in the Wichita area, he said, though chances for more storms are much better late Saturday night and early Sunday morning.

The timing and likelihood of the showers and thunderstorms will depend on how long it takes for the atmosphere in the region to rebuild energy in the wake of last night’s storms, which saw a line of thunderstorms stretch from Minnesota all the way down to Texas.

Wichita weather: Morning showers, then gradual clearing

Showers may linger through the morning today in the Wichita area, forecasters say, before skies slowly begin to clear this afternoon.

Highs are expected to reach the upper 80s on a muggy June day, with south-southeast winds in the teens. Gusts may top 20 miles an hour.

Skies should be mostly clear overnight, with lows dropping only to the low to mid-70s, forecasters say, and then Saturday should offer plenty of sunshine and highs in the low 90s.

Winds will be out of the south in the teens, gusting at times to more than 25 miles an hour.

Sunday should offer similar conditions to Saturday, forecasters say.

For more information on current conditions, go to our weather page.