Pratt County and surrounding areas were hit hard by high wind, large hail and heavy rain Tuesday evening.
A combination of high wind, torrential rain and pounding hail hit Pratt on Tuesday evening, coming in two separate waves, and leaving behind flooded roadways, damaged trees, homes and vehicles and a few changed plans for campers at the Pratt County Veterans Memorial Lake.
"It sounded like a hurricane," said Jeff Alexander, who with his wife, Sharon, was camped at the lake in the designated camping area. "We pulled in here earlier in the day, but were evacuated out when the water started coming up on the roads. We're going back to Missouri today, don't need any more of this."
Alexander, along with four other camping units, including Boyd Gower from Stafford, were guided from the campgrounds around 10 p.m. when storm spotters and emergency workers monitoring the situation noted that flood waters had covered Lake Road all the way from Park Hills Golf Course to the Kansas Fish and Game Department offices. Pratt County Sheriff Deputies were called in to find a way out of the lake area and escort the four camping rigs to a safer place in the Pratt Walmart parking lot.
At 10:54 p.m. the U.S. National Weather Service in Dodge City placed a call to Pratt County Emergency Management asking them to check the water levels at the Ninnescah Bridge on Country Club Road because flood stage had been reached according to the weather station beacon there.
"I was on duty and we were getting in rain amounts all across the board from Pratt," said forecaster Bill Turner with the national weather service in Dodge. "A coop observer called in 7.38 inches from 1.6 miles SE of Pratt. We had cumulative reports of 6.8 inches 2.6 miles S of Pratt, 4.35 inches 3 miles north of the city and 1.78 inches from the Pratt Airport. Pratt definitely got a lot more rain than anywhere near Dodge City."
Turner said that the river sensor at the Ninnescah weather station indicated near flood stage water levels of 9 ft. on Tuesday. By 10 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 25, that level was 9.48 ft, almost 6 inches over minor flood stage.
Turner said, in addition to rain, a brief tornado was reported less than a mile southwest of Isabel, just over the line in Barber County on Tuesday evening around 7:30 p.m., and cloud rotation east of Lake City elicited the sounding of tornado sirens in Sawyer, but no actual tornadoes were confirmed on the ground throughout the evening storms.
"Tornadoes are exciting," Turner said. "But it is likely the combination of 70-80 mile winds, heavy rain and 2-3 inch hail that tore through the area actually caused much more damage than a small tornado would have."
For Alexander, damage to his camping rig from the storm was mostly hail damage visible on his truck hood and camper wheel wells. Gower wasn't so lucky had most of the vents on his camper broken out by hail.
"It sounded like we were under a bass drum," Gower said. "It was very loud."
Citizens in Pratt reported a variety of hail sizes throughout the evening storms. The first round of bad weather kicked off a pelting of pea-sized ice balls around 6:30 p.m. in downtown Pratt, accompanied by torrential rains. A second round of storms came through about 30 minutes later that produced much bigger hail stones, some collected by residents near the middle and east side of Pratt, near the Pratt Regional Medical Center.
Amy Clarkson, who lives with her family near the hospital, said everyone had gone to bed by the time the big hail arrived, but the noise of it woke up the children and they wanted to go out and gather up the golf-ball and baseball-sized pieces.
"I told them it would hurt, but they didn't believe me at first," she said. "We had an old-fashioned umbrella that really helped shield from the rain, but they found out after a few pings that hailstones really hurt."
Eric Clarkson, Amy's husband, gathered what may have been the largest hail stone that measured 3 inches across.
At one point, the entire back garden area of the Clarkson's yard was covered with white hail stones, but the rain washed them away.
Turner, at the National Weather Service in Dodge City said hail stones were reported from quarter size to 2.75 inches, nearing baseball size. He was continuing to take reports of hail stone sizes, rain amounts and damage incurred from the Tuesday night storms at the U.S. National Weather Service Dodge City website or on their Facebook page.