A series of powerful storms packing heavy rains and frequent lightning strikes grounded dozens of flights, left about 245,000 North Texans without power and made for a chaotic Thursday morning rush-hour commute through flooded streets without working traffic lights. The worst of the storm system moved through Sulphur Springs between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. Wednesday with varying degrees of intensity, but the system left little damage in its wake.
“It was moving pretty quick,” said Robert Stidham, assistant chief of police and emergency management coordinator for the city of Sulphur Springs. “We had a tree over on Roesemond get pushed over. Lightning hit a tree on the east end of town, and the eletricity was out on the south side of Sulphur Springs for a while, but it came on about 11 o’clock last night.”
Wind gusts never exceeded 26 miles per hour at the Sulphur Springs Municipal Airport, but the number of trees and limbs scattered along roads across the county left evidence of stronger winds to the east and south.
Trees and large limbs were reported down on State Highway 154 south of the city, on FM 69 in the Black Oak area south of Como, in the 1500 block of East Industrial Drive, and on State Highway 19 south near County Road 1116, all between 8:45 p.m. and 10 p.m. Another large tree was found about midnight near the intersection of County Roads 4546 and 4544, where utility service was also temporarily interrupted.
At one point, Stidham had reason to be concerned that a funnel cloud could be in the city’s immediate future.
“I was watching one of the Dallas TV stations, and they said there was some rotation in a cloud and it was moving southwest to northeast,” said Stidham, indicating a direction that would put Sulphur Springs directly in the path of possible tornadic activity.
That news sent him scrambling to the Emergency Operations Center at the police station, where he contacted someone at the National Weather Service office in Fort Worth.
“She said, ‘Oh, y’all are fixing to get clobbered,” Stidham said. “She said there were 70 mile per hour winds and quarter-inch size hail, but that it would come up and be gone pretty quick.
“I said, ‘Do you see any rotation?’ and she said, “No, I don’t see any,’” Stidham recounted.
And, indeed, there were no indications of any funnel clouds or other rotational weather systems in the sky above or around Sulphur Springs.
A few miles to the east, however ...
“I heard this morning in Mount Pleasant that they had some around Talco,” Stidham said. “So we dodged a bullet.”
Elsewhere in North and East Texas, no deaths or injuries were reported from the storms, which began whipping the Dallas-Fort Worth area with winds up to 70 mph Wednesday night and continued the next day.
Thunderstorms were forecast to continue moving through the Dallas-Fort Worth area into East Texas on Thursday, said Daniel Huckaby, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
Limbs ripped from trees caused many of the power outages to more than 260,000 homes and businesses overnight. Power had been restored to all but 145,000 Dallas-Fort Worth-area customers by daybreak Thursday, Dallas-based Oncor Electric Delivery spokeswoman Jeamy Molina said. However, new storms later blacked out 100,000 more, she said.
About 2,600 repair crew members from Oncor, contractors and neighboring electric utilities were working to restore service when safe, Molina said lightning and heavy rain were interrupting those efforts.
Forecasters expect flash-flooding in Dallas County on Thursday as strong thunderstorms continue to rumble through the area.
About 50 flights were canceled Thursday morning at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and more delays and cancellations were expected throughout the day. Ground workers were brought in from outside because of lightning in the area, said airport spokesman David Magana.
Travelers trying to fly out of Dallas Love Field, where Southwest Airlines is based, also were enduring delays. Some 30 to 40 Southwest flight shave been delayed so far, spokeswoman Brandy King said.
Vivid lightning was suspected in at least one fire that destroyed a large, two-story house in the town of Heath on Lake Ray Hubbard near Dallas.
The NWS reports up to 6 inches of rain in Dallas County by the morning rush hour. Dime-sized hail fell over Fort Worth and DFW Aiport recorded wind gusts of 46 mph, Huckaby said.
Winds swept the area overnight, causing widespread damage. The worst appeared to be in the northern suburbs of Dallas and Fort Worth, where trees, fences and chimneys toppled.
Traffic lights throughout the region were dim for Thursday morning rush hour, leading to bumper-to-bumper traffic on highways and residential streets. Drive-thru employees had to turn away customers since some coffee shops and fast food outlets were without power.
Michelle Levitsky, of Frisco, just north of Dallas, says the winds bewildered her farm animals.
‘‘When the storm hit, they started running around, running into each other. The goats were being knocked over and tumbling. The chickens — we had their wings clipped — they were in the air, just being picked up by the wind,’’ she told KDFW-TV of Dallas and Fort Worth. She said all survived.
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