|Storm misses Holyoke; tornado confirmed|
|Written by Holyoke Enterprise|
Severe storms have been no stranger to this part of the country in the month of June, but Holyoke residents are counting themselves lucky when the worst of a June 18 thunderstorm missed the city.
Other parts of the county were not as lucky. Haxtun and rural areas to the east and northeast of Haxtun saw much damage from the storm.
A tornado was confirmed at 8:49 p.m. Wednesday night approximately four miles north and four miles east of Haxtun.
Bob Heldenbrand, Phillips County emergency manager, reported there was an unconfirmed tornado sighted at Haxtun City Park, and information and photos have been submitted to the National Weather Service to help determine if a tornado caused the damage in Haxtun or if it was straight line winds.
Heldenbrand said both weather spotters and trained emergency personnel can confirm tornadoes. A confirmed tornado means either a tornado has touched down or visible debris can be seen in the air from a funnel cloud.
In Phillips County, the tornado siren will sound for three consecutive minutes if a tornado has been confirmed within 10 miles of the town or if information from the National Weather Service shows there is high potential for a tornado to hit.
Last Wednesday, the sirens sounded in both Haxtun and Paoli.
A grain storage building owned by Legg Farms four miles east of Haxtun on Highway 6 is significantly damaged in the Wednesday, June 18, storm. The northwest corner of the building is ripped apart, and the grain leg on top of the building is blown over.
A severe thunderstorm warning with reported winds in excess of 70 mph as well as a tornado warning were issued by the National Weather Service for Phillips County.
No injuries were reported, according to Heldenbrand, but damages were caused by hail, extreme high winds, uprooted trees and flying debris including tree limbs.
Haxtun saw wind at 58 mph Wednesday, with gusts up to 78 mph, according to The Weather Channel.
Damage to Town of Haxtun property included significant damage to trees and the gazebo roof at the city park, the welcome sign and garage doors, among other infrastructure and equipment damage. The town also lost power during the storm.
Multiple trees were uprooted, and nine homes were damaged by fallen trees or limbs in Haxtun, in addition to several tombstones being damaged at Haxtun Cemetery.
Rural areas reported multiple grain storage bins damaged, an irrigation sprinkler turned over and a 150-foot radio communications tower toppled, among other things.
David Churchwell of Highline Electric Association reported the wind blew down three rural electric poles in Phillips County, approximately five in Logan County and around 60 in Sedgwick County. All were fixed by Friday.
He reminded citizens that if they see a downed pole, they should call Highline immediately at 970-854-2236.
Citizens to sign up for emergency notifications
Two reverse 911 tornado warning messages were sent out by the Phillips County Communications Center to the Haxtun area before and during the storm, reported Heldenbrand.
The Phillips County Office of Emergency Management encourages local residents to plan and prepare for all hazards, and one step in that preparation is to sign up cell phones to receive emergency notifications.
All land lines are automatically registered for the Wireless Emergency Notification System, but cell phone owners must register online for WENS. The English link is http://entry.inspironlogistics.com/phillips_county_co/wens.cfm, and the Spanish link is http://entry.inspironlogistics.com/phillips_spanish/wens.cfm.
Information for the emergency notifications is also available on the Phillips County website at http://www.colo rado.gov/cs/Satellite/CNTY-Phillips/CBON/1251638482908 or by calling the county at 970-854-3778.
Heldenbrand encouraged people to also have a plan for where they can find shelter in the event of a storm. Those in Holyoke can go to the Phillips County Event Center main bathrooms or the basement of the Phillips County Courthouse.
If residents don’t have a basement, they should make a plan with their neighbors instead of attempting to drive across town to the public shelters, Heldenbrand suggested.
Phillips County Office of Emergency Management posts updates on Twitter (@PhilCo_CO_OEM) and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/PhillipsCountyCO.OEM.
Tornadoes make the headlines
Tornadoes have been at the forefront of people’s minds this month. Along with the one confirmed in Phillips County, there were three sightings in Washington County during that same June 18 storm.
Also last Wednesday, Wessington Springs in southeastern South Dakota was hit by a tornado, with 11 homes and three businesses damaged.
Earlier last week, rare twin tornadoes tore through Pilger in northeast Nebraska Monday, June 16, wiping out three-fourths of the small town of 350. A 5-year-old and a motorist died, with 19 others injured.
Videos and photos have spread quickly on social media.
Holyoke Enterprise June 26, 2014