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Workers spend 24 hours cleaning up storm damage

Staff writer

Marion City crews were still working Monday and Tuesday to clean up damage from a storm featuring 90 mph winds Friday night in Marion.

They started the gargantuan task of taking the piles of broken limbs found all over town to the tree dump south of the city. The smell of burning trees was noticeable throughout Marion.

“We’ve got to keep burning or the dump would fill up,” Marion Administrator Doug Kjellin said.

The work Monday was heaped onto city employees, four of which had worked 24 hours or more Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Harvey Sanders, Christian Pedersen, and Randy Kelsey all worked 24 hours over the weekend to restore power and clean up damage on city property, including exhausting work in 100 degree temperatures Saturday. Travis Schafers worked 30 hours putting in 18 hours Saturday and 12 Sunday.

“The dedication level of this crew was amazing,” Kjellin said. “I’m honored that they work for the city.”

Kjellin said the combination of labor and fuel costs this past weekend will cost the city $11,000. Kjellin has spoken with Marion County Emergency Management Director Daniel D’Albini and officials from the Kansas Department of Emergency Management to establish a mutual aid program to pay city workers.

Kjellin is also working to file a Federal Emergency Management Claim to help repair damages.

The $11,000 figure does not include the work of Marion Fire Fighters. Marion Fire Chief Mike Regnier said the department responded to 11 calls between Friday and Saturday.

In most cases, the fire crews were standing by because of the potential fire hazard of arching downed lines. With the rain soaking grass around the lines — Kjellin described them as looking like sparklers — no fires were actually started.

In the chaos surrounding the storm, Marion fire fighters backed their truck into their garage door, causing extensive damage.

“It was a heat of the moment kind of thing,” Regnier said of the fire door damage.

While power controlled by Westar stopped flowing to Marion between 11 p.m. and midnight Friday, most of the power outages in the city were caused by downed lines taken out by fallen limbs. Kjellin said most Marion residents had power by Saturday afternoon.

Virginia Downing, 507 N. Lincoln, said because of multiple transformers connecting at her residence that half of her house had power Saturday while the other half was out.

Toni and Michael Ottensmeier heard their power returning Friday evening. Michael just barely woke up in time to throw the circuit breakers so that their appliances would not be burned out.

Some residents are still without power. Kjellin said those cases involve power boxes that were ripped from homes during the storm and require a certified electrician to wire power back to a house.

Marion County Emergency Management Director Daniel D’Albini said Marion was the county city that sustained the most property and tree damage from storms this weekend. Residences around Marion County Lake and in rural areas around Marion also received property and tree damage with high-speed winds.

Any combination of large oak, ash, and maple trees were damaged in the storm, which led to structural damage in some instances.

A large tree in Linda Alkire’s front yard, 311 Locust, caused minor damage to her home.

Tammy and Dan Miller spent all day Sunday in their backyard cutting up an oak tree, that destroyed their back fence, 310 N. Lincoln. They also had their fence repaired Sunday.

“We have three dogs, there was no way we could go without a fence,” Tammy Miller said.

The Ottensmeier family visited Michael and Toni Saturday to cut up the large branches that fell from an ash tree Toni estimated is over 100 years old. Equipped with five chainsaws it took the family, all day Saturday to clean up the fallen branches.

“That’s what family does,” Toni said. “Every where people were picking up chainsaws.”

Even with their efforts, the drainage ditch behind the Ottensmeier home was overflowing with smaller branches Monday.

Even with several tall trees causing much of the damage Friday, Sanders told Kjellin that without an aggressive tree-trimming program instituted by the city the past two years, the damage would have been much worse.

“It’s a never ending job,” Kjellin said of trimming trees.

Kjellin said the tree dump will be open and free to all residents until Friday; the city will continue to pick up tree limbs if they are placed at the curb. Kjellin did ask residents to make sure the limbs did not cover a fire hydrant or other sources of city utilities.

Last modified June 22, 2011

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