Last updated: August 28. 2013 10:49AM - 120 Views

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A severe overnight thunderstorm downed trees and left large portions of Pettis County without power for much of Friday.

The destructive storm that swept into the Sedalia area shortly before 1 a.m. Friday brought heavy rain and gusting straight-line winds of between 60 and 70 mph, according to Derek Deroche, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Pleasant Hill.

The high winds downed power lines across the area, leaving thousands of local households without electricity and closing businesses and the fair for part of the day.

According to Kansas City Power & Light's online outage map about 3,200 customers in the Sedalia area remained without power Friday night, down from about 7,600 without power earlier in the day.

The Missouri State Fairgrounds reopened at 3 p.m. after closing Friday morning while crews worked to restore power and make repairs.

By that afternoon, KCP&L had restored power to about 77 percent of customers affected by the overnight storms that left as many as 119,000 customers without power. About 28,000 KCP&L customers were still without power, with the worst damage focused in Sedalia, St. Joseph, Maryville and parts of northern Johnson County, Kan.

Kelli Hindes, a spokeswoman with KCP&L, said officials were assessing the damage and crews were working “to restore power as quickly and safely as we can,” but the company expected some areas would likely be facing “multi-day outages.”

Company volunteers were set up at the Lowe’s Home Improvement store at 3811 W. Broadway Blvd. handing dry ice out to customers to help preserve refrigerated items. KCP&L spokeswoman Courtney Beatty said the company ran out of dry ice about 4 p.m., but planned to return Saturday.

“The amount of time it will take to restore power will differ from place to place. It all depends on the type of damage ... by the morning we will have a better estimate,” Beatty said.

The progress of the recovery efforts were also threatened by forecasts calling for more storms possibly rolling into the area late Friday or early Saturday.

“You’ll probably get some more storms late tonight and early tomorrow, with a chance for more thunderstorms Saturday afternoon,” said Deroche, who added that the possible storms in the forecast were not expected to be as severe as the one that struck early Friday.

No injuries have been reported in Sedalia as a result of the storm, but fires, downed power lines and tree limbs and traffic issues kept emergency responders busy throughout much of the day.

Firefighters had to contend with two serious fires overnight in addition to numerous reports of damaged power lines, according to Deputy Fire Chief Greg Harrell.

Harrell said for three hours firefighters worked at the scene of a structure fire that caused extensive damage to a home at 409 S. Park Ave., and a garage at 1610 W. Broadway Blvd. was a total loss after an overnight blaze.

As power was restored in some areas Friday, firefighters responded to numerous calls of tree limbs scattered across power lines sparking into small fires, Harrell said.

Officials urged residents to steer clear of all downed power lines, and encouraged residents to report them to KCP&L’s automated hotline at 888-544-4852.

Sedalia Police Chief John DeGonia said 23 police officers — half of the department’s staff — were called in overnight to direct traffic at major intersections where power was out, help respond to fires and look for downed power lines.

By Friday evening, the department was mostly back to its typical staffing levels, although three additional officers were on duty.

“We still have three or four intersections where we’re directing traffic, but all the roads are passable,” DeGonia said Friday night.

City and emergency management officials held an emergency meeting Friday morning to identify streets blocked by debris and devise a recovery plan. City crews worked over the course the day to clear roads and break down debris throughout town.

Many residents were also out early working to pick up debris and assess the damage left in the storm’s wake. Mike Chitwood used a chainsaw to clear out an uprooted tree that had fallen across South Missouri Avenue near West Seventh Street, crashing down onto his pickup truck parked in the street.

“It was laid across into that yard (across the street),” Chitwood said. “I didn’t hear anything while I was sleeping, so I didn’t know until 5 a.m.”

The city has established a special collection route for storm-related tree debris. All tree debris should be placed at the street curbside for pickup, and the city will starting removing it Monday.

The city also extended the hours of operation for the yard waste drop-off site at East 28th Street and South New York Avenue in anticipation of increased yard waste and tree debris from the storm.

The yard waste facility will be open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday.

The site will resume its normal hours of operation — 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays — starting Tuesday.

— Democrat Editor Bob Satnan and Managing Editor Dennis Rich contributed to this report.

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