BROKEN BOW—Cellphone Emergency Alerts sounded just after 7 p.m. on Saturday, July 16 as the National Weather Service issued Severe Thunderstorm Warnings with destructive 90 MPH winds. The warning proved true as now, days later, the sound of chainsaws can be heard in all directions as Custer County residents continue the clean-up process following Saturday night’s storm.
Custer County Emergency Manager Mark Rempe told KCNI/KBBN the storm was primarily a “wind-driven” event consisting of straight-line winds resulting in severe damage to trees.
Rempe said the weather service had estimated winds of up to 100-110 MPH in Anselmo and Merna with the Broken Bow airport reporting 90 MPH winds. The straight-line winds, and some hail in the northwest part of the county, resulted in damage to trees and pivots, an empty train car blown over in Anselmo, widespread crop damage, damage to buildings, houses, and grain bins.
In an interview with KCNI/KBBN, Rempe said he and the weather service were not concerned with tornadoes but had spotters in Merna, Broken Bow, and Ansley. Winds began to dissipate as the storm moved southeast. As for rain, roughly an inch was estimated in several areas with KCNI/KBBN receiving .95 of rain.
Custer Public Power District (CPPD) General Manager Rick Nelson said the strong winds caused power outages and damage to nine power poles between Anselmo and Litchfield. Power was restored by early Sunday morning with other repairs and cleanup estimated to be completed by Monday afternoon. Nelson said he is grateful to all of the CPPD crews and appreciates customers for their patience.
Some power outages lasted longer than others due to trees in power lines.
“It [wind] caused a little more havoc than what we’re used to. Thanks to all the customers for their patience. Thanks to the guys and the linemen who got out there and answered the phone for us. We appreciate all the help from everybody,” Nelson said.
Broken Bow Mayor Rod Sonnichsen said between the hours of 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. on Sunday, local patrons brought in 416 loads of tree limbs to the Broken Bow Tree Dump. Sore and sunburned, Sonnichsen said city crews wanted to help community members as much as possible by opening the tree dump for free. The tree dump will remain open for the rest of the week from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. free of charge (it will also be open during the lunch hour).
“Seeing thousands of people coming together just to try to recover from such a mess and if you had a tree, you had problems,” Sonnichsen said.
Sonnichsen said crews from the street department worked past midnight to make sure streets were clear of storm debris.
“There’s a lot of people that don’t have the capabilities, they can’t haul, they have no chainsaws, and they need that recovery too. In a combined effort a lot of good people doing a lot of hard work,” Sonnichsen said.
Traffic lined south 13th as vehicles made their way to the tree dump on Sunday, equating to a new load every 59 seconds. Despite the heat, Sonnichsen said morale was good from the staff, volunteers, residents, and his wife who kept tally.
“My hat’s off to those that helped the neighbors that can’t”
Sonnichsen said most of the tree limbs will likely be burned eventually. He said the storm could have been worse but says it is great to see neighbors helping each other.
“It is kind of a heartbreaking thing especially when you see a tree laying on your house or on your vehicle. We will have worse storms in the future; we’ve had worse in the past. Don’t give up on it—this is a quick fix. Well, not really quick but it could have been a whole lot worse,” Sonnichsen continued. “I know there is some damage to some of the businesses and residences but to a point where nobody got hurt and we can only pray for that.”