Brown County was nailed by a series of storms Thursday, including one that hit around 4 p.m. and caused substantial damage in Hiawatha and out in the county.
The first storm hit the area around 1 p.m. and an eerie shelf cloud preceded some heavy rain and winds. This storm cleared out and a little before 3:30 p.m., Brown County was placed in a severe thunderstorm warning until 3:45 p.m. and that was extended until 4:30 p.m.
The storm swept through quickly, but within minutes caused a substantial amount of damage. In Hiawatha, trees were bent over, a few homes sustained damage, cars and a power line was downed north of Oregon — causing power outage for some residents in that area, along with the elementary school.
Downtown more tree limb and other debris was scattered around and the Arrow Twin Theatre lit sign that dated back to the 1970s shattered and blew all over Oregon. The H&R Block sign is just hanging from the side of the building and in front of the Historical Society, a pedestrian crossing sign bent nearly to the ground.
Thursday evening, Hiawatha Chief of Police John Defore said he had not received any specific reports of damages to homes, but with all the trees down, said that there would be some coming in. He said some homes were without power on the north side of town and city crews were out just following the storm to clear debris.
Brown County Sheriff John Merchant said that out in the county, he has had unofficial reports of roof, shed, tree and crop damage from the winds in the county.
“I was near Reserve when the worst hit and received hail dents on my vehicle and the largest hail was close to baseball size,” he said. “Visibility was zero with rain several different times.”
Merchant said farmers in different parts of the county have had crops devastated by the hail and southern parts of Brown County had minimal issues with the storm. He has received several reports of baseball size hail in the county.
“The city of Hiawatha sustained heavy damage, crews did a great job of clearing trees and debris from streets,” he said.
Hiawatha Superintendent of Schools Lonnie Moser said the district bus drivers dealt with hail and wind before they all arrived back to town safely. He said the high school had some water issues, which was likely a plugged gutter and the Special Ed Annex had water under the doors, but was thankful not much else in the way of facility issues occurred.
City crews are working on cleaning up debris and residents are asked to have limbs at the curbside and please be patient with removal timeline. Residents are also asked to make sure any contractor working on storm-related damage is licensed with the city and registered with the state. Residents are cautioned to not pay any money up front and make sure all paperwork is in order.