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Columbus News

Posted on: October 4, 2023

Severe thunderstorm leads to building, parks and road damage


The cleanup is underway after Tuesday night’s thunderstorm caused some damage to Columbus parks, buildings and roadways.

Two trees went down in Frankfort Square; a tree fell down on a light pole and took down some powerlines by the west shelter in Pawnee Park and roadways throughout town were closed as a result of tree branches falling down, among other things.

According to Meteorologist Michaela Wood, out of the National Weather Service office in Omaha/Valley, a severe thunderstorm that featured strong winds came through Columbus producing wind gusts up to 60-70 mph. She said one report just east of Columbus indicated wind gusts of 73 mph.

“It was definitely enough to knock down tree branches,” she said.

City of Columbus crews were hard at work in Frankfort Square early Wednesday morning cleaning up the debris. City Parks and Recreation Director Betsy Eckhardt confirmed two trees along 27th Avenue near the bandshell suffered significant damage. One was split in half while another was uprooted and fell into a third tree. The tree split in half and the other uprooted became unstable and will have to be completely removed, while the third will be trimmed up. Crews were on scene before 7:30 a.m. cleaning things up.

“We’re just very happy it did not hit the stage,” Eckhardt said.

(ABOUT THE PHOTO: Crews working on Wednesday morning in Frankfort Square. See an enlarged version of this photo by clicking here. See an enlarged version of the top photo by clicking here.)

Eckhardt and Parks and Recreation Aquatic Coordinator Joe Krepel on Wednesday morning were on their way to Memorial Stadium to move the sideline benches that blew onto the field turf during the storm. But the seating was the least of the issues.

The storm resulted in part of a tree falling on a light pole and taking out some powerlines over by the west shelter in Pawnee Park.

“Loup Power has disconnected the lines so it’s safe, but we recommend while people are out working to stay away from the west shelter area,” Eckhardt.

Eckhardt said there were tree limbs scattered throughout Pawnee and Glur parks due to the storm, adding she was not yet sure of damage in other City parks early Wednesday morning.

(ABOUT THE PHOTO: A panel of glass outside the Columbus Community Building along 14th Street was shattered and boarded up Tuesday night. See an enlarged version of this photo by clicking here.)

The Columbus Community Building, 2500 14th St., also fell victim to the storm. Shortly after 7 p.m., a twisted bench outside the front of the building along 14th Street was moved by the wind and bounced into a glass panel outside on the first level of the library near 26th Avenue and shattering the glass completely before moving further down the street by the exterior building sign. The library was open at the time and there were no injuries, though people were removed.

City staff spent the next couple of hours boarding up the panel, which will ultimately have to be repaired. The shattered glass damaged some of the furniture in the library and pieces of it were in the process of being cleaned up mid-morning.

City Engineer Rick Bogus said the twisted bench that moved and the matching one were already on the building’s punch list to be bolted down, but it just hasn’t happened yet. He said he hoped that would get accomplished soon, noting tables and chairs near the bench did not move.

The C-2 District girls' golf tournament was supposed to commence at 9 a.m. Wednesday at Quail Run, but was pushed back one hour due to storm cleanup. City Public Property Director Doug Moore said crews went in early to remove the branches on the fairways, noting tree limbs were scattered throughout Quail Run and Van Berg. A large tent next to the pro shop at Quail Run was completely destroyed.

Like the golf courses and parks, there was tree damage in Columbus Cemetery that was in the process of being picked up.

“They’re still hanging in the trees,” Moore said, noting no damage was discovered at Roselawn Cemetery.

Meanwhile, the City Street Department anticipates being extremely busy. City Street Superintendent Clete Borchers said the storm damage resulted in six roadways throughout town getting closed: Near 13th Street and 30th Avenue, 18th Street west of 26th Avenue; 7th Street by 18th Avenue; 33rd Avenue by 36th Street; 9th Street by 15th Avenue and a roadway just north of Scotus Central Catholic High School; as well as a street over by Lost Creek Elementary School. The closed roadways had been mostly cleaned up as of late Wednesday morning, with additional work expected to take place within the next day.

“It’s going to take us today and tomorrow,” Borchers said Wednesday.

 Additionally, he noted, a few pedestrian crossings in town will need to be repaired.

Borchers was optimistic crews would get things cleaned up in the near future

“The one fortunate thing is it was quick,” he said. “It could have been a lot worse.”

Platte County Emergency Manager Tim Hofbauer said the storms were strong Tuesday night and encouraged residents to always take precautions when thunderstorms become severe.

“Treat them like a tornado, because you have flying branches and branches falling, broken windows and shattered glass, as evidenced,” Hofbauer said. “My suggestion is to go where you go for a tornado shelter and treat it as that kind of an event.”

Copyright © 2023 City of Columbus

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