Residents of Lovell have been working hard at cleaning up and regrouping after a severe thunderstorm roared through the town and northern Big Horn County on Thursday evening.
The storm tore through Lovell with golfball-sized hail and straight-line winds that peaked at 59 miles per hour, while Cowley recorded a 62-mile-per-hour gust, according to the National Weather Service. The highest gust recorded with Thursday’s storm was 79 miles per hour at Greybull.
Chris Hattings, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Riverton, said the windblown hail did the bulk of the damage in Lovell.
“It looks like it was probably the most intense storm that Big Horn County has seen this year, at least in a populated area,” Hattings said. “When you have a combination of 60-70 mile-per- hour winds and windblown hail, bad things happen usually.”
When the storm hit, Misty Moss was shopping at Lovell’s Red Apple grocery store. Power went out and she had to wait in the store as large hail rained on the town for about 20 minutes, she said.
“It was golf ball-sized hail. You couldn’t go outside,” Moss said. “Every building in town was damaged on the north side.”
Because the power was out, Moss couldn’t buy the groceries on her list. All she could do was watch the hail pile up and hope her home in the rural area around the town was OK.
“It’s Mother Nature. What are you going to do?” she said.
Stephen Fowler was stuck in his truck when the storm arrived.
“I was sitting in the pickup and the vehicles across from me were rocking. All of a sudden the hail started hitting so hard I picked up my jacket and covered my face because I was afraid the side windows were going to bust out,” Fowler said. “I’ve lived here 52 years and [have] never seen anything like this come through.”
Fowler, owner of Thunder Basin Construction and tree service, spent the next day boarding up windows in his properties and running a crew that was removing several trees for customers.
Lovell resident Sharon Sammons got caught outside. She avoided major injuries, but took many direct hits, giving her several bruises, a swollen hand and a goose egg on her head. The impact caused bleeding, but she had yet to seek treatment.
Bob Ford, of Powell, was fishing at Yellowtail Wildlife Habitat Management Area.
“The wind was blowing like crazy. It was so bad I had to just sit there and wait in my truck,” he said.
Not wanting to get stuck in the mud, Ford decided to head back to Powell. Passing through Lovell, he was shocked by the damage.
“When I got to town, it was a wreck,” Ford said.
Area dentist Scott Welch took major damage to his home, vehicles and lost the front window to his office in Lovell.
“The window just exploded,” Welch said.
Like many buildings and homes in Lovell, Welch’s home was covered in damage. The hail ripped through siding and stripped paint off a metal door on the north side of his home. A large tree in his backyard just missed damaging the back of his house when it was uprooted by the strong winds.
Several area residents posted accounts on National Weather Service, Lovell Chronicle and Big Horn County Sheriff’s Office’s Facebook pages about the storm and the damage it dealt, including:
• True Hatch of Lovell posted that he and his family were fine, other than a “green driveway,” adding that “all the leaves from the trees are everywhere.”
• Sharon Myers Hall said the storm’s winds picked up her neighbor’s shed and sat it down across the road in another neighbor’s front yard; Hall said she initially thought Lovell had been hit by a tornado.
• Nichole Bunn wrote that she and her family hid in the bathroom as the storm rolled in and it broke windows in her house and truck.
Lovell and Cowley were not the only area communities to be affected by thunderstorms on Thursday. Two storms blew through Cody, leaving behind penny-sized hail, but the Weather Service office in Riverton had received no reports of damage as of Friday afternoon.
After the storm, crews from Big Horn Rural Electric and Rocky Mountain Power worked throughout Thursday night to restore power, though there were still power outages in some areas on Friday.
“As we continue to clean-up and assess the damage from [Thursday’s] storm, we have witnessed mass amounts [of] community support that make us proud to live in such a great state,” Big Horn County Emergency Management said in a Facebook post on Friday morning. “So far, we have received support from private businesses, municipalities, state agencies, and the great citizens of Lovell and our surrounding area.”
Keele Sanitation placed four dumpsters around Lovell to help with the clean-up efforts. Big Horn County Emergency Management said the bins are exclusively for disaster clean-up and asked citizens to use the vegetative waste site for downed trees and limbs instead of the dumpsters.
Representatives from the Wyoming Office of Homeland Security and the Red Cross are slated be in the area for individual disaster assessments, while Farm Service Agent Brenda Miller will field questions related to potential emergency small business loans. For more information on those loans, call 307-765-2663.
Any local groups or volunteers able to assist in boarding up broken windows of vacant homes and the homes of those who are elderly, infirm or in need of assistance are encouraged to call the Lovell Town Hall at 307-548-6551.