Huddled in their basement, Bernie McArdle and his family listened as pieces of their home collapsed above them during “15 or 20 seconds of hell.”
Their home was one of nearly 100 that were damaged when suburban Lees Summit was struck by a micro-burst, a violent thunderstorm downdraft measured at 125 mph. Thirteen homes were destroyed, but no serious injuries were reported.
It was the worst damage reported from waves of thunderstorms laced with tornadoes that boiled up across the Plains states from Texas into Nebraska and to the Great Lakes beginning late Sunday and running into Monday.
And while Memorial Day usually is considered the unofficial opening of summer, the Black Hills of western South Dakota had blowing snow, heavy enough to close 14 miles of the scenic Needles Highway and make travel difficult on other roads.
Damage in Lees Summit from the late Sunday storm was estimated at $10 million, Assistant Fire Chief John Spencer said Monday.
McArdle, 31, and his wife, Shannon, grabbed their three children, 8, 6 and 4 years old, and dashed for the basement moments before the walls of a bedroom and garage blew out.
“As I went down the steps, I saw the back of my house blow through the west side - desk, computer, TV - the whole room,” McArdle said.
The windy blast came in the middle of a thunderous storm.
“First there was a rainstorm, then 15 or 20 seconds of hell and then right back to a rainstorm,” McArdle said.
After the noise had subsided, he went outside and found “just total devastation.” Broken gas lines were hissing; three sides of a house across the street were gone.
Two neighbors had run to get their baby when they heard the storm coming.
“As they ran out the bedroom door, both sides of their house split off and they were standing there in the hallway with nothing on each side of them,” McArdle said.
The storms spawned half a dozen tornadoes in Kansas. In Oklahoma, a tornado derailed empty railroad coal cars parked along a siding.