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Sunday
February 23rd, 2020

trees on seventhABOVE: Trees along Seventh and Sherman sag, crack and break Sunday during an ice storm that hit Liberal late Saturday night and continued through the early Monday morning hours. L&T photo/Heather WattSpring 2017

By EARL WATT, ROBERT PIERCE & ELLY GRIMM

Leader & Times

An eerie creaking sound could be heard only a second or two before a heavy branch made its way to the ground, crushing anything that might have been below it.

That pattern repeated all day and through the night Saturday and Sunday in Liberal as rain quickly turned to ice on branches, building up into an inch-thick cocoon, and the massive weight was too much for the trees to support as limb after limb gave way, scattering debris in roadways, on houses and in yards, and utility lines also suffered damage, causing power outages throughout Liberal and the high plains region during Winter Storm Jupiter.

Welcome to “Icemageddon,” a January rain that hovered at freezing, keeping the rain from turning to snow but cold enough to instantly freeze upon contact with branches, fences, power lines and anything else suspended in the winter air.

Roadways avoided the ice for most of the weekend, but as temperatures finally plummeted below freezing Sunday night and early Monday morning, the ice finally turned to snow and started to accumulate on the ground, which could have been the best break in the storm for the trees.

Still, even Monday morning, the creak and crash of branches continued as limbs succumbed to the icy weight.

The National Weather Service issued a statement that the winter storm would continue until noon today. The total precipitation was 1.23 inches during the weekend, most of it starting as rain that turned into ice. Reports today may change the total, and snow was not yet included.

Many businesses were already scheduled to be closed for Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, but school was supposed to take place until a notice of cancellation was given late Sunday evening that there would be no school in Liberal.

That left residents with the task of cleaning up after the devastation of branches that caused damage on their way to the ground.

The City of Liberal and Seward County partnered to remove downed limbs and branches for the next two weeks in a massive clean-up after FEAM declared the storm a national disaster.

 

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