Storm hammers county
Siblings (from left) Ron, 15, Samantha, 9, and Austin Spurlock, 12, are relieved Tuesday after Sulphur Springs firemen tend to a transformer which caught fire when a tree was thrown on top of it on California Street. A storm that blew through the area Tuesday uprooted trees, like the one in the top photo on Houston Street, and knocked down utility poles and power lines around the county.
Staff Photos By Angela Pitts
Thousands temporarily left without power as straight-line winds down trees and power lines
By FAITH HUFFMAN, News-Telegram News Editor
Feb. 6, 2008 - Trees were uprooted and thousands of Hopkins County residents were temporarily without electricity Wednesday as a severe thunderstorm brought powerful straight-line winds that damaged roofs and downed power lines.
No inuries were reported after the storm system roared through the county in just an hour's time Tuesday evening. The impact kept firefighters, weather spotters and other emergency officials busy into the evening, however.
The worst of the damage reported to local emergency responders seemed to be on the north side of the city and county, although other areas did suffer the wrath of the storm, as well.
Stan McKee, public information officer for TXU/Oncor, said a few customers were still without power late Wednesday morning, but most remaining outages were due to damage to facilities.
"For example, a meter ripped off a building which will require an electrician to repair before we can go out," explained McKee.
McKee said about 4,000 TXU customers in the Sulphur Springs service district, which includes Hopkins County and the surrounding area, were without electricity at the height of the storm. The electrical provider was able to restore power to the majority of those customers within 30 minutes to an hour of the outage, however.
Farmers Electric Co-op officials could not be reached for information regarding power outages to its customers in the area, but numerous residents reported sporadic outages in the city and county Wednesday morning.
Despite reports from citizens of suspected tornado activity, neither city nor National Weather Service officials observed any indications of tornadoes, just straight line winds and a severe thunderstorm warning.
Sulphur Springs Police Lt. Rex Morgan and Assistant Police Chief Robert Stidham opened the city's emergency operations center at 2:59 p.m. Tuesday, and activated weather spotters to begin monitoring conditions after receiving a report from the National Weather Service that the storm was pressing toward the area. They began working with Bill Bradford at KSST to begin alerting the public of the potential weather situation, while Hopkins County Chief Sheriff's Deputy Rickey Morgan monitored AWAS, the Automated Weather Advisory Station.
The ferocity of the storm was sudden and certain -- 12 minutes after activating the EOC, officials began receiving reports of damages from the storm.
At 3:23 p.m., the weather station at Sulphur Springs Airport recorded steady winds at 23 miles per hour with wind gusts up to 64 miles per hour. The winds were strong enough to rip a large section of roof off the city's service center, knock down section of wall of a city-owned building on Middle Street, and tear loose roofing on the cupola of the main terminal at the airport.
The storm also damaged airplanes and hangars at the airport. Winds overturned a Cessna tied down beside a hangar at the airport, as well as the trailer it was sitting on. The wing and tail of the plane sustained damage, and firefighters were called on to plug and clean up fuel spills from the aircraft. The wing whipped the tail of another plane into the hanger next to it, causing one wing to strike metal inside the hanger and suffer some damages. Several sections of roofing and doors on at least four hangers at the airport were blown off or damaged.
Around the city, as in the county, utility poles were either snapped in two or left leaning over.
Trees and limbs were knocked down onto roads and into power lines, causing power outages and obstructing streets and highways.
The most signifcant damages in Sulphur Springs were reported on Houston Street, Main Street, Hillcrest Drive and Loop 301. In some places, such as along Houston Street, trees were uprooted and laid over. A downed line in the teacher parking lot at Sulphur Springs Middle School required police to route traffic onto Bell Street to allow parents to pick up students.
In the county, State Highway 11 east and Sulphur Bluff seemed to be areas where the most damage was reported.
A trailer was reported to have been blown on top of a structure on FM 71 east in the Bluff. At 3:15 p.m., a tree was reported to have been blown over into the road, blocking both lanes of State Highway 11 west in Ridgeway. Trees were also reported to be down in a yard on County Road 4716 yard near Cumby. Others fell on County Roads 4575 and 4583 due to the wind. Some limbs were also reported to have fallen on rooftops and in yards.
Power lines were also reported down on County Road 3518 in Dike. There was also a utility pole and line down in a front yard on CR 3502.
Even 18-wheelers weren't immune from the wrath of the storm. A truck driver on State Highway 19 north contacted emergency officials at 4:52 p.m. to report that his truck doors had come open and that he was losing part of his freight to the storm.