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Chainsaws cleaning debris were in high gear; power restored to most customers

The Sonic Drive-In marquee in Richmond declared over the weekend “boil order lifted.”
The people driving cars and trucks loaded down with wind-downed tree limbs had to think on that – between last week’s burst water mains and Friday morning’s storm that knocked out power to 1,500 Kansas City Power & Light customers – it’s been a rough week for Richmond.
Over the weekend, KCP&L crews restored power to nearly all Richmond residents by Saturday morning, said City Administrator Rick Childers. By 1:30 that afternoon, Public Works crews were lifting barricades to open the stretch of Lexington Street near the former Derstler Hardware building, which lost two of its metal walls when straight-line winds blew them onto two major KCP&L feeds into the city after 5 a.m. Friday.
That knocked out power to Richmond square businesses and the courthouse all day Friday. The County Commissioners let each department determine whether they would close early.
“We went hour by hour, minute by minute. I stayed around, working at my desk, until quitting time, but with phones not ringing, I let some of my staff go early,” said Ray County Assessor Kent Wollard.
Ray County Collector Margie Bowman said they left at 10 a.m. and returned, in the event the power was restored, at 1 p.m. Since the server was down and they had no computer service, they closed early
Elsewhere, the stretch of North Main Street running past the Burns Title building remains barricaded today, after losing a roof section and pieces of parapet wall bricks in the storm, Childers said.
A few lucky homes got their power on earlier, Childers said. He added the storm produced no significant injuries of which he was aware.
“There were areas coming back on before noon (Friday), as soon as KCP&L got a line repaired,” Childers said.
The weekend clearing of downed limbs and debris brought out the best in city employees and private residents alike.
Approximately 50 trees were lost and many others suffered limb damage at Shirkey Golf Course. The course was closed on Friday due to the unplayable conditions. Board members and volunteers worked throughout the day on Friday to have the front nine open for Saturday. On Saturday, the cleanup moved to the back nine and the entire course was ready for play on Sunday morning.
Once Richmond Fire Department crews finished clearing the roads of debris, they set to work helping Richmond residents clear driveways and move stacks of limbs from curbs, Captain Brad Branson said. They were joined by Grant Akers, Richmond native and owner of Richmond Railroad Contracting, LLC, who donated 12 hours of his time and the use of his grapple truck to quickly clear limbs.
“That way, it’ll ease work up on Public Works crews,” Branson said. “Plus it helps out maybe some people who can’t afford tree crews.”
Akers praised the work of Public Works and Fire Department crews, while deflecting credit from himself as much as possible.
“They did all the work,” Akers said. “They did all the cutting and chainsawing and dragging out to the road . . . They did most of the hard work.”
Akers was at a brief to say what made him pitch in.
“That’s a good question,” he said. “I don’t know. I had the truck here, I live in Richmond and just happened to bring the truck home Thursday night. I just thought it was the right thing to do.”
– Russ Green and Brenda Jensen contributed to this report.
Photo: Larry Roberts cuts down a damaged pear tree at the residence of 101 Grandview in Richmond Friday. Roberts, who mows the lawn at this home, said he was doing a favor for the resident. (Photo by JoEllen Black/The Daily News)

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