Storm damage or delight? New babies born at PRMC while squall-line marches through Pratt

Jennifer Stultz
Pratt Tribune
Through the storm it looks like electrical linemen working to fix a pole that was struck by lightning are just squiggles of light. These four trucks were out at 1 a.m. on U.S. Highway S. 281, just two miles south of Pratt City limits working to get the job done last Tuesday.
All that is visible by daylight, after the storm Tuesday, are deep tracks where electrical linemen from Ninnescah Electric spent time in the previous night's storm fixing a pole that was damaged when lightning took out insulators at the top and created a fireball explosion.

While there is no scientific proof between the fact that three babies were born within 9 hours last week at Pratt Regional Medical Center and the fact that a powerful line of thunderstorms marched across western and center Kansas late Monday into early Tuesday, there are those who believe there was a connection.

According to the Family Birth Suites nursing staff at PRMC, including Brenda Blankenship, RN Manager, there are many who may think that it is an old wives tale that the full moon and weather changes affect pregnant women, but as for her and her staff - they believe.

"We have seen times where it seems that these changes in atmospheric pressure changes affect our pregnant mamas," Blankenship said. "But really, this time it was more of happenstance.  All were actually scheduled for this week but ended up delivering on the same day within 9 hours of each other."

Whether it was the dropping barometric pressure and an upper level, low pressure system coming out of Colorado, or simply natural activity nine months ago, the arrival of three new lives during the major storm was an exciting occasion in Pratt.

At PRMC, Elan Ulysses was born at 12:52 a.m. on October 12, weighing 8 lbs. 3 oz., length 21 inches; Scarlett Kaye was born at 7:37 a.m., weighing 7 lbs. 12 oz, length 20 1/4 inches; and Malakai Amari joined the party at 8:37 a.m., weighing 8 lbs. 10 oz, length 20 3/4 inches. The medical center keeps an updated web-babies page with pictures of newborns at https://www.prmc.org/our-services/family-birth-suites/web-babies/.

"We regularly have babies arriving, just not usually so close together," said PRMC Communications Director Andie Dean. "We were very busy."

While the baby boom was centered in Pratt, the storm that passed through about midnight to 1 a.m. October 12 did little noticeable damage in the city and surrounding county. The U.S. National Weather Service Dodge City, verified that seven tornadoes were recorded with the weather system, but none were located in Pratt County.

According to weather-service data, two tornadoes were confirmed near Greensburg, while others were confirmed near Sublette, Howell, Spearville, Fellsburg and Trousdale.

The tornadoes that hit on Tuesday were rated EF-0 to EF-1 strength, with wind speeds mostly between 80 mph and 110 mph. and touched down in rural areas. damage was generally confined to irrigation systems and outbuildings, the weather service said. No serious injuries were reported.

Meteorologist Mike Umschied with the weather service said the unusual fall weather event featured squall-line tornadoes that are different from the super-cell beasts of spring tornado season.

"In the fall, usually October and November, we can get a situation that develops and abnormal amount of downward wind shear," Umschied said. "The atmospheric disturbance doesn't need the heat when there is as a low-level pressure system like we had coming out of Colorado. The barometer drops and that's pretty much what we had going on."

Along with the nurses (and new parents) at PRMC, Ninnescah Electric lineman and staff were kept busy with last week's storm.

"We had a lot of issues to deal with, lightning strikes and wind damage knocked down eight poles," said Robert Lamatsch, Ninnescah Electric Assistant Manager. "We had seven trucks out and all eight lineman on duty through the night. There were a lot of big, big trees that went down, landing on electrical lines, mostly in the Preston/Turon area. We also spent a lot of time helping our power suppliers/substations out in Edwards and northern Kiowa County."

Lamatsch said there was one lightning strike in Pratt County that took out the top of an electrical pole straight south of Pratt along U.S. Highway 281.

"Lightning blew out the insulator just north of the landfill entrance," Lamatsch said. "We have a special device that we hook up to the line to control the current when that happens. Our customers were without power just over an hour there while we fixed that in the storm."

Lamatsch said it was dangerous work when his lineman were called out during significant storms to repair electrical lines, but that is what they continually train for, that was their job.

"There are times we are cabbed up during the worst of it," Lamatsch said. "But we do a lot of safety training, we take it all very professional, and we are here to serve our customers. That's our job."

So despite 70-80 mph winds and driving rain, plus sporadic, continued lightning, Lamatsch and other electrical servicemen were out all night fixing and repairing line damage from the significant storm last week while most in the community slept.

Well, most people were sleeping, except maybe those taking care of the new babies at PRMC.