A wind and rain storm hit Iola Aug. 1, ripping the steeple from St. John’s Catholic Church, and causing widespread damage to show windows in downtown stores, roofs, electric lines, trees and farm buildings over a wide area. It is estimated that the wind gusted at about 100 mph. The wind ripped the roof off the football stadium in Everett Shepherd Park. Segments landed on a car and a pickup truck parked on the street, destroying both. More than 600 homes in the city were without power due to damage to power lines. There were no reported injuries.
The wind and hail storm set an all-time record for damage done to crops, trees, electric and telephone lines in Coffey, Woodson and Allen counties, according to electric company spokesmen. KG&E executive Ken Lunt in Fort Scott said it was the worst storm recorded in the 75 year history of the company. “The area covered ranged from a mile and one-half wide to 20 miles wide. Winds ranged from 70 mph to 125 mph. We had 230 transmission poles down on the ground. Some uprooted, some snapped in two,” he said.
Bill Meek, manager of Allen County Airport, said the wind gauge there hit 80 mph before the lights went out and he could no longer read it. Bob Schuster, manager of the United Electric Cooperative in Iola and an amateur meteorologist, described the storm as a hurricane. He said a straight wind that blows at 75 mph or more rates as a hurricane. He said the Co-op had 100 poles down, cutting off service to over 2,000 customers. Gov. John Carlin declared Coffey and Allen counties disaster areas, making them eligible for relief benefits. Red Cross officials said 586 houses and 56 mobile homes were damaged. Damage to crops still in the field was catastrophic. In a strip six to eight miles wide between here and Moran crops were left flat on the ground.
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