While Commerce authorities reported a tornado touching down just west of that city Tuesday night, high winds and rain were the most severe weather conditions reported in Hopkins County.
Trees were blown down on roads and utility lines, a few structures sustained minor damage from the whipping winds, and at least one community was reported to be at least temporarily without electricity during the storm. Straight line winds ripped through one neighborhood, causing damage to homes and vegetation. No one was said to have suffered any serious injuries as a result of the storm, however.
County first responders and officers were first alerted at about 10:30 p.m. that the storm had reached the Northeast Texas area. By 11 p.m., the storm was moving out of the Cumby area and had reached Sulphur Springs, with winds estimated at 50 miles per hour. The thunderstorm brought light rain, gusty winds and occasional sky-to-ground lightning, city weather spotters reported. Also at 11 p.m., hospital dispatchers advised emergency medical services personnel that they were under a “code gray,” or a tornado warning.
However, as it reached the city, the storm appeared to split, with the bulk of the cell moving just north and south of Sulphur Springs, city emergency operations officials reported.
Around 11:15 p.m., city police broadcast that they’d been notified by a Commerce officer that a tornado had just touched down west of that city.
In Hopkins County, power lines were reported to be arcing on State Highway 19 north. North Hopkins firefighters were unable to find any sparking lines, but continued to travel that area checking for damage. At 11:30 p.m., power was reported to be out in Birthright in the area of SH 19 north and FM 71.
The first reports of damage in southern Hopkins County also came around 11:15 p.m. when a tree was reported to have fallen onto a power lines on County Road 1211 and caught fire.
A short while later a tree was reported to have been blown onto FM 2560 about two miles south of State Highway 11 east. Como firefighters’ response was stalled due to a large tree which blocked State Highway 11 just east of FM 1870. Arbala firefighters, responding with Hopkins County firemen to CR 1211, were asked to divert to FM 2560 as Como would be unable to respond.
Also, Texas Department of Transportation crews were asked to assist in getting the tree off SH 11 east, and Como VFD sent one of its trucks back to the station for more equipment to cut the tree up.
At about 11:40 p.m. Hopkins County firefighters reported
numerous lines down on CR 1211 and trees on lines and blocking the roadway. After more examination of the area, HC firemen reported a path of damage from straight line winds. The whole Sandy Ranch area was reported to have received extensive damage to homes as well as electric lines and trees.
Roofs were torn off houses, one garage was completely destroyed, meter boxes were ripped off two houses. Firefighters requested Oncore to the scene, and turned off power supplies until Oncore arrived around 3 a.m. Wednesday. Utility company response was delayed due to the extensive number of line problems in the area.
“Straight line damaged approximately six houses in Sandy Ranch Addition. It tore down one garage, completely destroying it. It picked up a carport and carried it 20 feet over a fence. One vehicle was damaged where a tree limb broke through a window,” said Steve Caudle with Hopkins County Fire Department. “The winds tore the roof off houses, ripped meter boxes and weather heads off.”
As Hopkins County and Arbala firefighters continued working their way down the path of damage created by the straight line winds, they learned that damages on two other roads reported to have trees and lines down were also the result of the straight line winds, which the National Weather Service forecast at 60 to 75 miles per hour, although local officials had no way of accurately gauging the true wind speeds.
“It continued to FM 2560 on to [State Highway] 11, knocking down trees, then on to County Road 2174. Trees were knocked down and it ripped another meter box from the side of a house,” Caudle said, noting that the trees blown over were fairly large trees, averaging between 50 and 70 feet in height.
Sporadic reports of trees and lines down were also reported in other areas throughout the county. In fact, Miller Grove firefighters and EMS personnel were delayed early this morning in responding to a medical alert call on County Road 1180 due to two large cedar trees obstructing the roadway.
Fortunately, the alarm was noted to have gone off as the power flashed off and the resident was able a short while later to make contact with emergency dispatchers to report all was OK.
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