By JAMES BELL
UPDATE AT 6:25 A.M.: Midwest Energy crews got power lines up off I-70 and the interstate was reopened just before 2 a.m. Wednesday morning after a severe thunderstorm blew through the area about 7:15 p.m. Tuesday.
About 20 semi-trucks were reported overturned on I-70 with power poles and lines downed near Hays, although that information has not been verified by authorities. I-70 closed for several hours between Hays and WaKeeney.
Midwest Energy is reporting electricity is back on in Ellis. Some 20 power poles are down in Ellis County, with seven reported downed north of Exit 157 near Celebration Community Church which was heavily damaged. MWE crews from Colby, Colby, Oakley and WaKeeney will be in Hays this morning to help with repairs.
In the Great Bend area, at least 10 power poles are down.
Approximately 382 Midwest Energy customers are still without power in the Hays vicinity this morning according to the MWE outage viewer.
UPDATE AT 11:20 p.m.: Traffic remain closed on I-70, but a semi that overturned has been up-righted as the KHP works to clear the scene. Midwest Energy is working to restore transmission lines down across I-70 in order to reopen I-70.
“Crews are working hard to get wires crossing I-70 back up; fortunately everyone stayed in their vehicles and nobody was injured,” Midwest Energy said. “It will likely be 2-3 hours before wires are up and KHP can make a decision to open I-70 back up.”
They are also asking for any gas leaks to be reported immediately.
“We are also seeing reports of gas leaks due to fences and AC units hitting meters; please call those in ASAP at 1-800-222-3121 and follow prompts for gas leaks,” they said.
Traffic around Hays is causing delays to repairs, Midwest energy said.
Everyone is asking to remain off roadways if possible.
UPDATE AT 10:45 p.m.: Midwest energy said a transmission line came down atop a semi on I-70 two miles west of Hays.
“That is our priority, clearing that and getting I-70 cleared of wires so KHP can get it back open,” they said.
“We have the main line feeding Ellis with two known poles down; we are working on rerouting power, getting Ellis back on from the WaKeeney line. We have found 7 structures down near I-70 and Celebration Church in Hays, which also sustained heavy damage. Please avoid the area.”
They ask that anyone with a power outage to continue to call in and they are prioritizing problems.
“Please keep calling your outages in, but bear with us; heavy sightseeing traffic is slowing our ability to patrol lines,” they said. “We will prioritize restoration by transmission, then sub-transmission, then individual yard lines.”
UPDATE AT 9:44 p.m.: The Kansas Highway Patrol was reporting Interstate 70 was closed between WaKeeney and Hays due to downed power lines and semi trucks blowing over due to the storm.
UPDATE AT 9:27 P.M. The National Weather Service in Dodge City has issued a Flood Warning for Central Ellis County until 12:30 a.m. Wed., Aug. 14.
As a large storm blew through Hays Tuesday evening storm damage was being reported across town with power lines down, debris littered across roads, flooding and about 6,200 without power around 9 p.m.
“As you can imagine we have a fair amount of damage across the county,” said Mike Morley, director of communications, Midwest Energy.
“There is also a fair amount of debris in the street,” he said.
“We have crews out right now doing damage assessments, trying to find where those wires are down, so we ask people to call in their outages to our 800 number.”
Midwest Energy’s outage line is 800-222-3121.
He suggested avoiding driving through the town as flooding was occurring throughout large portions of Hays.
Midwest Energy is currently assessing damage in Hays, but Morley said it may get worse before it gets better when looking at the outage map.
“As we fix one section of line, we have to take down a whole of city block or two city blocks as we make that connection and bring it back on,” he said.
But they are working as quickly as possible to get power restored.
“Folks should know we are going to be out there throughout the night as we do during outages and getting everyone on as quick as we can,” Morley said.