Brent Stinson with Texas Department of Transportation stands by to warn motorists to cross at their own risk Wednesday on FM 69 flooded at North Caney Creek between Mahoney and Dike. Numerous roads in the area were still covered in water this morning as a reminder of the more than 4 inches of rain a storm system dropped on the region Tuesday.
Staff Photo By Angela Pitts

Spring storm pounds area with high winds, heavy rain

By FAITH HUFFMAN, News-Telegram News Editor

March 19, 2008 - The storm cells which whipped through the area Tuesday brought heavy winds and more than 4 inches of rainfall to Sulphur Springs, but the city was otherwise virtually unaffected by the weather.

Miller Grove and the southeastern end of North Hopkins, however, were hit hard by the pummeling wind and deluge of rain.

A number of county roads were impassable or extremely slick overnight and this morning, especially in low-lying areas and near bridges and creeks.

High winds knocked down numerous trees, and in some cases power lines, blocking roads and resulting in sporadic power outages in the affected areas.

Several motor vehicles hydroplaned off of highways, and at least two rollover accidents were reported on Interstate 30.

No one was reported to have been injured as a result of the violent weather, however.

Two people reported seeing what could possibly have been funnel clouds beginning to form, but the National Weather Service, which had issued a tornado watch, reported no confirmed sighting of funnel clouds. The weather service, however, did indicate straight-line winds with downbursts likely occurred.

First responders and law enforcement officers were kept busy most of the evening, with county firefighters alone responding to 18 calls during the approximately five-hour period before the storm began dying down.

The first weather-related report coming in at 1:57 p.m. when trees knocked down power lines, partially blocking State Highway 19 north at FM 1537.

Within about 10 minutes, firefighters responded on FM 3505 at the South Sulphur Unit of Cooper Lake, where a storage tank reportedly "exploded." Firefighters learned lightning had struck the tank, and the "product" began spilling into the creek. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineer crews stemmed the leak and had the fire under control by the time firefighters arrived.

At 2:22 p.m., North Hopkins firefighters reported trees had fallen along County Road 4508 and that some structures had been damaged, including rooftops and corrals.

Firefighters and officers quickly began checking on people in the area, where as many as15 structures may have sustained some amount of structural damage. Although most reports Tuesday were of moderate to minor damage, emergency officials were slated to return to the area later today and into the week to get a better idea of the full extent of the loss.

On CR 4508 near FM 1537 a semi trailer was reported to have blown over per, and a barn on CR 3236 also was said to have sustain a structural damage.

Hopkins County Emergency Medical Services personnel were at one point called on to provide back-up oxygen support at a residence in Birthright, after a man requested assistance for his mother.

Trees were reported to have been blown over and into power lines at numerous locations, including:

n State Highway 19 north at FM 1537

n FM 275 at County Road 1120

n East of FM 2653 at CR 1120

n Two miles north of FM 1567 on County Road 1131

n FM 69 through Dike

n FM 1567 east of FM 275 south

Where possible, county precinct crews were called in to remove trees. Texas Department of Transportation was also contacted regarding trees blocking roads, as were utility companies. Firefighters and law enforcement officers also responded at those locations to help warn motorists and redirect traffic until the problems could be corrected or warning indicators were established.

Interstate 30 west of Sulphur Springs was temporarily Tuesday night when a tree fell on a power line which stretched across I-30 in Brashear just before 10 p.m. The interstate and service roads had to be shut down for nearly an hour, with firefighters, deputies and troopers stationed at exits leading up to the location to prevent motorists from inadvertently running over the "live" wire. They remained at the location until 10:56 p.m., when Oncor workers arrived to shut off power to the line and get it far enough off the road so as not to pose a traffic hazard. The agencies, along with TxDoT crews, also blocked off that section of I-30 and the service roads for about 20 minutes while Oncor crews restrung the wire.

Emergency crews received reports of water over a number of roads throughout the night and into this morning. Among them were:

n State Highway 11 west at County Roads 4716 and 4784

n FM 71 west, one mile from North Hopkins school and at the Hopkins-Delta County line

n The southbound lane of State Highway SH 19 south

n Both lanes of FM 2653 at County Road 4809 in the Oakland community

n Portions of FM 69 south

n County Road 1178 off of FM 275

n County Roads 4776 and 4766

n County Road 2310 along FM Roads 69 and 269

Roads in the Turkey Creek community were also covered in water midmorning Wednesday but still passable for most vehicles, deputies reported.

National Weather Service and county emergency officials were still urging motorists later Wednesday morning to slow down, particularly on slick roads to avoid hydroplaning. They also advise motorists to err on the side of caution when it comes to submerged roads; turn around instead of trying to ford the water, which could cause engines to stall, and in cases of running water, submerge or wash away vehicles.

As a rule of thumb, motorists should "Turn Around, Don't Drown" when encountering a road covered in water, as it's often very difficult to determine the exact depth of the water.

In all inclement weather conditions, people are urged to avoid driving when possible. When they must drive, they are cautioned to slow down and be alert for potential hazards such as water on roads, high winds, and fallen trees and power lines. Be especially cautious in heavily wooded areas, low-lying areas, and around bridges and lakes, rivers, creeks and streams.

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