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Monday, January 30, 2012

Today in History: In 2002- Massive Ice Storm Crippled Metro-MetroRegion Kansas City

Ten years ago today- our region was affected by one of the worst ice storms in recorded history.

The following is a diary of sorts that I wrote during and updated in the several weeks after this devastating storm:


Starting January 29 and ending near midnight on January 31, 2002, KANSAS CITY, MO. and much of it's 50-mile radius "MetroRegion" was struck by the worst ice storm in recorded history. 

The weight of up to three inches of freezing rain and sleet brought down trees, limbs, power and other utility lines. In KC,MO. alone, more than "500,000" trees were reported damaged or destroyed.

·   KC,MO. remained under an officially-declared state of emergency from late Wednesday January 30 through Friday, February 1. 

Other areas and cities also declaring states of emergency were  JOHNSON and WYANDOTTE Counties in KS. as well as the MO. suburbs of GLADSTONE, LIBERTY, RAYTOWN and LEE'S SUMMIT.

·   At least a million people were without electrical power during the height of the storm late Wednesday through Thursday.

·   Three are confirmed dead ... two from carbon monoxide poisoning, one dead after being struck by a falling tree limb. At least five dozen people were overcome by inhalation of carbon monoxide fumes.  

More than one hundred people were treated for other storm-related injuries including falling trees, falling ice, falls on the ice, fires and other accidents.



Vast areas of the KC METRO go dark from the storm. Reports from power companies affected in the MetroRegion ... including TOPEKA, LAWRENCE & ST. JOSEPH ... put the total estimated number of individually-billed customers without electricity at more than 500,000.

That figure would affect more than half of the total MetroRegion population of around 2 million. 

Thursday evening, KCP&L officials report "as many as 350,000 customers" or "around 750,000 people" lost power.

Tallies from other area power companies ... MO. Public Service, KCK's BPU, INDEPENDENCE Power & Light and KP&L add up to more than 175,000 of their customers who lost power during the height of the storm.

Many power, phone and cable providers said complete repairs to their systems "could take a week, maybe more." Assisting crews from "a 20-state area" were sent to the KC METRO, and to other hard-hit areas of northern, central and western MO as well as eastern KS..

By the following Sunday, an estimated 325 out-of-town crews were assisting in both utility repairs and tree limb removal. That number would grow to near 500 crews by the next week.

In the immediate KC METRO, major damage to utility systems was reported in the MO suburbs of INDEPENDENCE, RAYTOWN, GLADSTONE LIBERTY, BELTON and GRANDVIEW as well as older sections of LEE'S SUMMIT and BLUE SPRINGS.    

Much the same was reported in parts of KC,KS. and the suburbs of northeast JOHNSON County; WESTWOOD, FAIRWAY, MISSION & MISSION HILLS, PRAIRIE VILLAGE, LEAWOOD, OVERLAND PARK and SHAWNEE. Older sections of OLATHE and LENEXA were also hard hit.

In four-county KC, MO.,  the damage to the urban forest was immense. From The Northland south and east to Northeast and the East Side. From the West Side, Midtown, Plaza and Brookside south and east through the Eastwood Hills, Loma Vista and Ruskin areas, the KC STAR reported as many as 20,000 street blockages by fallen trees, limbs and power lines.

Kansas City officials estimate around 60% ... or 500.000 ... of the city's trees were damaged or destroyed by the storm.  Front and back yards of houses with trees were littered with small to major limbs.

Many heavy limbs took down utility lines, but a number also fell on sheds, cars and houses. The roof of a Metro commercial building collapsed Thursday afternoon from the weight of the ice.


Strapped area police, fire and EMS services reported hundreds of calls for medical assistance. MetroRegion hospitals reported full emergency rooms from early Thursday into the weekend.

Saturday, four hospitals ... one in JOHNSON County KS and three in KC,MO. were turning away patients transported by ambulances due to overloaded emergency rooms.

Thursday brought the first death associated with the storm. CASS County authorities report a 41-year-old HARRISONVILLE man ... Christopher D. Moles  ... died as a result of inhalation of carbon monoxide fumes from a running gas generator in his garage. His wife and a helping neighbor were also hospitalized. 

Friday night, the KC,MO Health Dept., an agency mobilized in the emergency, reported "one" KC woman dead,  "31" total victims of carbon monoxide inhalation. Also, a couple in their JOHNSON County home were also reported severely overcome by CO fumes from a running generator in their garage.

Sunday, a LEE'S SUMMIT, MO man was found dead under a fallen tree limb on Hamblen Road. Up to two-dozen people were reported to be injured by falling ice and ice-laden limbs.

Wednesday night, three young persons received minor injuries when a falling tree glanced off of them.  Also Wednesday, a K.U. Med Center 26-year-old security police officer was struck and pinned at the waist by a falling tree in a parking lot while on duty. His injuries were reported as non-life-threatening.

By the weekend after the ice storm, hospitals report more than 100 patients who had fallen on ice-covered walkways. By late Saturday, there had been about a dozen persons Metro-wide that have reportedly suffered from cold exposure.

There were a few electrocutions reported ... one was Wednesday ...  a power company employee who was working on ice-damaged power lines.

There have also been a considerable number of persons needing assistance with powerless home medical equipment. Injuries from car accidents were surprisingly few.

Fires also caused non life-threatening injury to at least three persons. More than two dozen structure fires from early Wednesday to early Saturday have caused hundreds of thousands of dollars damage.

From late Wednesday morning until early morning Friday, MetroRegion fire department units dispatched call after call, many of those for downed live power lines. Many of the fires in residences had an electrical cause ... a number the result of power surges from shorting lines. 

Late Wednesday, the KC,MO Fire department had "six" reserve fire companies in service "running numerous calls, " said Chief fire dispatcher Phillip Wall.  Wall also stated that the department was "making all pumper companies 4" person crews instead of the usual three. "Ten" dispatchers were on duty by 7 PM Wednesday, up from the normal "4," Wall said. 

At one point late Wednesday night, KC, MO.Fire had "six structure fires working at once" according to dispatcher Bob Carlson.  

In a seven minute period around 12:30 AM Thursday morning, KC,MO fire dispatchers put out a multiple-company response regular-alarm a minute.

Around 9 PM Wednesday night, water pressure was greatly reduced in south portions of KC,MO. when power was lost to two key pumping stations. 

Fire department water tanker trucks from SOUTH METRO in RAYMORE and BELTON, MO stood by in KC,MO fire stations until pressure was restored just after midnight.

In a 12-hour period, the fire department dispatchers had received "nearly 1,200 calls" for emergency service. That figure is only 200 calls short of an average total for a month.  

Not counting inter-departmental and non-emergency/inquiry radio and phone calls, an average of 100 calls per hour for emergency help were dispatched and eventually resolved.

Requests for fire department help became so numerous that from late Wednesday to late Thursday, the Fire department would only run on fire or carbon monoxide calls ... all strictly medical runs were turned over to M.A.S.T. paramedic crews.

Suburban JOHNSON County KS. fire departments also added reserve companies to handle the onslaught of emergency calls.  From 7 PM Wednesday to 7 AM Thursday,  JoCo emergency services dispatchers processed over 420 calls for service.

Many area departments had to ask for outside help ... from 100 miles away, a Neosho, MO. unit came to HARRISONVILLE in CASS County MO. to help with badly-needed resources on Thursday.

HARRISONVILLE was hit particularly hard Wednesday afternoon. That 15,000 population county seat had three working structure fires and around a dozen calls for wires arcing or burning. HARRISONVILLE normally has one structure fire a month and a dozen calls a week.

Late Thursday, KC,MO.'s Fire Chief Richard "Smoky" Dyer stated in a news conference that "the threat of (structure) fires is ten times greater than normal." 

Fortunately, temperatures stayed warm enough that ice-coated roadways did not become a serious problem for either public emergency agencies or motorists.

Freeways and main arterials stayed mostly wet to slushy and many residential streets not blocked by tree debris were plowed and treated at least once.

Municipalities and emergency assistance organizations like the Red Cross had set up many shelters around the MetroRegion for any of the potential million people rendered heat-less or otherwise homeless by the ice storm.

The KC STAR reported that around 650 people stayed in Red Cross-operated shelters by Friday night. Ten times that number and more stayed in other shelters, hotels,  motels, or with family and friends with power.

Precipitation finally came to an end in most of the KC MetroRegion around midnight Friday morning.


Sunshine and low 30's temperatures Friday did some melting.  A 300-foot radio tower collapsed from the weight of ice in PITTSBURG, KS.. No one was injured by the collapse, but three radio stations using the tower were knocked off the air.


By Saturday, temperatures had reached near 40 degrees as ice continued to melt and fall off of trees, power lines, structures and towers. KC, MO. Police closed streets and evacuated homes and businesses around the landmark KCTV-5 tower at 31st & Grand because of large falling chunks of ice.

Late Saturday the first weekend after the storm, KCP&L estimated the number of those still without power at just over 70,000 ... about 120,000 still powerless Metro-wide. 

Sunday, most of the ice had melted from all but spots on the ground as temperatures rose into the upper 40's.

The cost to businesses could be considerable. Thousands of businesses lost power for at least a short time, a yet-unknown number were shut down for up to three days because of no power or employees unable to get to work.

Utility companies not only suffered considerable system damage, those companies such as cable television and  telephone that charge a flat monthly rate for service will lose considerable sums of revenue in bill adjustments to tens of thousands of customers who lost service.

Late Monday night ... almost 96 hours since the end of The Great Ice Storm of 2002, area power companies reported a total of about 75,000 customers still without electricity. Many of those out were among the estimated 48,000 KCP&L and 14,500 MoPUB customers.

Wednesday February 6, exactly a week after the storm was in high gear, President Bush declares those MO. and KS. counties that applied federal disaster areas.

Power was still out to an estimated 25,000 customers of the various electric utilities in the KC Metro. Some customers were getting so irate that security guards were having to be sent with some repair crews. 

A KCP&L spokesman Tom Robinson stated their company had "430 out-of-state" crews working in the area and a few more were "being called from the ST. LOUIS area."

Municipalities were also getting a handle on what the storm would empty from their coffers. 

Combined totals in JACKSON County MO. were around $34 million. KC,MO. estimate was approaching $20 million, INDEPENDENCE officials said $7 million, RAYTOWN reported a figure of nearly $3 million.

Combined totals in JOHNSON and WYANDOTTE Counties were around $17 million ... the total Metro-wide was approaching $50 million just for storm cleanup and associated damages. Utilities still would not give any cost estimates

There continued to be an above-normal number of structure fires in the week after the peak of the ice storm.

Monday night February 4, a KC,KS. woman died in a house fire there, but the cause is said to be careless smoking. 

An explosion and fire Monday in KC,MO. injures three people. The incident is at the Stratco Company in the 6000 block of Manchester Trafficway and the cause is attributed to that other than the storm.

A house fire in BLUE SPRINGS late Tuesday night February 5 killed two children and seriously injured their step-grandfather.

From the home at 104 Southwest Kingscross are dead, 11-year-old Anthony Turner and his 5-year-old sister Ariel. Dennis Peel, 42, suffered severe burns trying to rescue the two children.

The fire was started by a kerosene heater being used in the front living room to heat the house. The home had power restored earlier that day.

Two houses burned over a period of two days in the small community of WOOD HEIGHTS, MO., east of EXCELSIOR SPRINGS. No injuries were reported and the cause of both of those fires were said to be electrical and related to the ice storm.

Late Wednesday night February 6, a rare four-alarm house fire in south KC,MO. injured two firefighters, one critically.  The fire was in an unoccupied house on 96th Street, a block west of  Wornall.

The 2-story structure was virtually destroyed.

The two injured firefighters were were from Pumper 36,  making a standard-procedure primary search on the first floor. 

Mark Robinson was the badly-injured firefighter ...  just four months out of the fire academy. Robinson reportedly took off his mask and breathed in heated, toxic gasses. 

The other injured man, acting Captain Walter Flathers, suffers less-severe inhalation problems while assisting Robinson out of the house. Both suffered some burns.

It took the first-in companies valuable time to clear storm debris covering a fire hydrant. Somebody had stacked their broken tree limbs on top of the hydrant.

Fire investigators said the the cause was  electrical, and "directly attributed to last week's storm."

In the second week after the storm, the true scope of the storm damage had become clear.

KC,MO. reported an estimated "70,000 to 100,000 tons" of storm debris to be picked up beginning Monday, February 11. That top estimate is only 20,000 tons short of all the trash KC,MO. collects in an entire year.

During the peak of the outages (the KC STAR article doesn't mention when that "peak" was), 420,000 "local customers" ... those in the immediate KC METRO ... lost electrical power.  Friday, February 8, KCP&L's first storm recovery cost estimate is issued ... $28 million.

KCP&L reported the last of their customers not needing private electricians are restored on Monday, February 11. INDEPENDENCE P&L had also restored most customers. 

KPL/Westar covering OLATHE and parts of  JOHNSON County finished Thursday. KCK's BPU was working to restore the last of their customers Monday, as was the power company with the most customers still out, MO Public Service (MoPUB).

Those estimated 800 MoPUB outages on Saturday were in RAYTOWN, LEE'S SUMMIT, PLEASANT HILL, BELTON, RAYMORE, GRANDVIEW, BLUE SPRINGS, BUCKNER, GRAIN VALLEY and OAK GROVE. Virtually all of those customers were back on by Tuesday, February 12.

The medical system was so overloaded, only three of all of the KC METRO hospitals / medical centers did not refuse ambulances at any time during or immediately after the storm ... from January 29th to February 3rd.

Thirteen hospitals closed to all ambulance traffic for ten or more hours during that period.

On Monday February 4, KMBC-TV Channel 9 aired a news special report on the storm at 6:30 PM.  

The print graphics during the program kept showing the year as "2001."

Many probably wished the storm had been that long behind them.

Updated Saturday, 16 February 2002.
_ _ _

How   this   event   stacks   up   with   Kansas  City  Metro's   historic   big   storms:

January,   1973   ...   Ice  &  Snow   ...  95,000 power customers affected, some for four days. Worst storm in KC history to that point. 

Loma Vista West neighborhood hard hit.

March,   1984      ...   Ice  &  Snow  ...   More than 200,000 power customers affected.  More than 8,500 dark for at least 6 days, some nearly two weeks. 

KC,MO cleanup alone cost $2.4 million. Damage also severe in LAWRENCE & TOPEKA.

October 1996         ...    Snow    ...        More than 240,000 power customers affected for up to several days. KCP&L losses $11.3 million. 

KC,MO. collected 35,000 tons of tree debris. Cleanup costs KC,MO.- $3.6 million, OVERLAND PARK,KS.- $1.8 million.

January  2002           ...    Ice      ...        Three dead and more than one hundred various storm-related injuries in the immediate KC Metro

At least 420,000 power customers went dark with at least 840,000 people affected. Throughout the 50-mile-radius KC MetroRegion, up to 500,000 total power customers darkened, affecting at least a million people. 

Utility service was not restored for all customers affected by the storm for nearly two weeks.

            A week after the storm, damage estimates for cleanup in KC,MO. at $20 million, INDEPENDENCE $7 million, OVERLAND PARK,KS. at $2.5 million. 

Cleanup estimates for the entire KC METRO as much as $27 million ... $50 million for all municipalities in the KC METRO. 

KC,MO. officials estimate 70,000-100,000 tons of storm debris ... normal year's trash is 120,000 tons.

Sources: Eight public safety scanners, KC,MO. Fire Dept., M.A.S.T., The KC STAR, WDAF, KCTV, KMBC & KSHB -TV and other sources.


NWS Weather Observations taken at 3 A.M. Wednesday,  January 30, 2002:
CITY                         SKY/WX      TMP  DP   RH   WIND       PRES     REMARKS
KANSAS CTY INT    FRZ RAIN       25    23    92     N12        30.14S    FOG     WCI  14 
KANSAS C DTWN   FRZ RAIN       27    25    92     N8          30.14F    WCI  19         
ST JOSEPH            FRZ RAIN       23    19    85     N13         30.18R    FOG     WCI  11 
CHILLICOTHE              N/A            27    24    89    N8           30.16R    WCI  19         
CITY                         SKY/WX      TMP  DP   RH   WIND       PRES     REMARKS
SPRINGFIELD             RAIN          34    33    96     N14        30.02R     FOG     WCI  25 
JOPLIN                   MIX PCPN       32    31   96    CALM       30.04F     FOG             
CITY                         SKY/WX      TMP  DP   RH   WIND       PRES     REMARKS
COLUMBIA              MIX PCPN      31    31   100     N7         30.09S     WCI  24         
JEFFERSON CITY    MIX PCPN     33    33   100     N7         30.11R     FOG     WCI  27 
ROLLA                        RAIN          33    32    96     N8         30.04S     FOG     WCI  26 
SEDALIA                 MIX PCPN      30    29    96     N7         30.12S     WCI  23         
WHITEMAN AFB      LGT RAIN      34    28     80    N13        30.11S     FOG     WCI  25 
OSAGE BEACH        CLOUDY      32    28     86     N5         30.09F     WCI  27         
CITY                         SKY/WX      TMP  DP   RH   WIND       PRES     REMARKS
CONCORDIA             CLOUDY       20    12    71    NE9        30.18S                 
EMPORIA                 FRZ RAIN      26    24    92    N10         30.13R    FOG     WCI  16 
LAWRENCE             MIX PCPN      27    23    85    N8          30.18R     FOG             
MANHATTAN           LGT SNOW     22   18     85    N10        30.19R     FOG     WCI  11 
OLATHE IND             FRZ RAIN      27    26    96    N9          30.15R     FOG             
OLATHE EXE            FRZ RAIN      27    26    96    N9          30.11F     FOG             
SALINA                    LGT SNOW   21    17    84     N12        30.18R     FOG     WCI   9 
TOPEKA BILLARD    FRZ RAIN      23    21    92     N7          30.19R    FOG             
TOPEKA FORBES    MIX PCPN     24    22    91     N8          30.16R    FOG             
CITY                         SKY/WX      TMP  DP   RH   WIND       PRES     REMARKS
CHANUTE               MIX PCPN      30     28    92      N7         30.06F    FOG             
COFFEYVILLE        FRZ RAIN       31     30    96      N7         30.06S    FOG             
HUTCHINSON         MIX PCPN       22     17    81    NE9         30.11F                 
MEDICINE LODGE       N/A            27     25    92    N15         30.06F   WCI  15         
NEWTON                CLOUDY        25     21    86     N14         30.09F   WCI  13         
PARSONS             FRZ RAIN        31     29    92    CALM       30.06F                 
WICHITA INTL        FRZ RAIN        27     25    92     N14         30.10R   WCI  16         
WICHITA JABRA    FRZ RAIN        27     25    92     N15         30.09S   FOG     WCI  15 
WICHITA MCCONL FRZ RAIN        27     25    93     N14         30.09F   FOG     WCI  15 
WINFIELD              FRZ RAIN       30     27    88     NE12       30.10R   FOG     WCI  20 
CITY                         SKY/WX      TMP  DP   RH   WIND       PRES     REMARKS
BEATRICE *             CLOUDY        18    7      62     N9         30.18F     WCI   6         
FALLS CITY             CLOUDY        20    13    74     N12        30.20S     WCI   8         
FREMONT *             CLOUDY        16    5      62      N9        30.21S      WCI   4         
LINCOLN                 CLOUDY        17     7     64     NE10      30.23S     WCI   5         
OMAHA EPPLEY     CLOUDY        16    7      67      N8        30.26R     WCI   5         
OMAHA OFFUTT      MOCLDY       16    10    79      N12       30.23R     WCI   3         
CITY                         SKY/WX      TMP  DP   RH   WIND       PRES     REMARKS
ATLANTIC *              CLOUDY        18    10    73     N10        30.22R    WCI   6 TC  -8  
AUDUBON *             CLOUDY        14    12    92      N9         30.20R    WCI   2 TC -10  
CLARINDA *             CLOUDY        21    14    73     N10        30.21R    WCI  10 TC  -6  
COUNCIL BLFS *      CLOUDY        18    10    73     NW8      30.21R    WCI   7 TC  -8  
CRESTON *             CLOUDY         23    14    68     NW8      30.16R    WCI  14 TC  -5  
HARLAN  *               CLOUDY        19    10    68      N9         30.25S    WCI   9 TC  -7  
LAMONI                LGT SNOW       21    18    88      N9         30.16R    FOG     WCI  11 
RED OAK *              CLOUDY        21    12    68      N7         30.21R    WCI  13 TC  -6  
SHENANDOAH *      CLOUDY        23    12    63     NW9       30.23R    WCI  13 TC  -5  
CITY                         SKY/WX      TMP  DP   RH   WIND       PRES     REMARKS
TULSA                     LGT RAIN      33     33   100    N10        30.03R    FOG     WCI  25 
TULSA/JONES AP   FRZ RAIN      33     32     96     N8         30.03R    WCI  26         
PONCA CITY           FRZ RAIN      30     29     96   CALM      30.06F    FOG             
BARTLESVILLE       FRZ RAIN      32     30     92    MISG      30.09R    FOG             
MUSKOGEE                N/A           37     34     89    N16        30.02R    WCI  28         
CITY                         SKY/WX      TMP  DP   RH   WIND       PRES     REMARKS
FAYETTEVILLE        CLOUDY       48     44    86     N5         29.94R                 
FORT SMITH            PTCLDY        46     41    82    W9         29.93S                 
HARRISON              CLOUDY        46    42     86     N3         29.96F                 
BENTONVILLE         CLOUDY       39     39    100  NE8G20   29.98S                 
ROGERS                 CLOUDY       39     37     93     N6         29.96S                 
SILOAM SPGS         CLOUDY       39    36      87     N9        29.96R                 
HIGHFILL                 CLOUDY       39     38     96     N12       29.95R

1 comment:

Super Dave said...

Man I will never forget that night was the launch of a 53 hr straight work day for me. Started just before rush hour wuth heavy rain then the freezing started.