big, bad storm
Will Harrison pauses after Thursday morning's storms to take photos of the damage done when a 100-year old tree crashed into his house at 301 Chestnut St. in Winnsboro. His family escaped without injuries.
Staff Photo by Terry Mathews

Strong storm howls through area

S.E. Hopkins County, Winnsboro, Yantis hardest hit

From Staff Reports

May 15, 2008 - A powerful thunderstorm carrying destructive straight line winds roared through Northeast Texas around midnight Wednesday, tipping trees and downing power lines.

Como-Pickton and Yantis schools were dismissed due to power outages. Classes at Winnsboro ISD were delayed until 10 a.m.

"Power was out all over the city since midnight," said Winnsboro City Manager Nina Browning about 10:30 Thursday morning. "Although some power has been restored, there are still about 1,000 households without power."

Several volunteer fire departments came to Winnsboro's aid, with the first arriving about 2 a.m.

"I've never seen anything like it," Browning said. "Fire departments from all over the area starting showing up to help."

One of the volunteers, who lives off State Highway 11 east, had to stop and clear trees off the road just to get to the fire station, said Mark Griffin, a Winnsboro fireman who had been on the scene since about 1 a.m.

Fire departments were not the only ones on the scene.

"Alexander Tractor brought three front-end loaders to help with the effort," Griffin said. "They wanted to make sure we had enough equipment."

Griffin has been at the fire station since about 1 a.m.

"Once I secured my family, I came in," he said. "I live off FM 852 and there was a lot of damage out that way."

Several power companies, including Wood County Electric Co-Op and Southwestern Electric, sent clean up crews to deal with downed power lines and to help restore electricty. Teams from Texas Department of Transportation were also working to clean up the debris.

According to Griffin, the storm carried powerful straight-line winds.

"The storm hit fast and hard. From looking at the damage and how the trees fell, it doesn't appear to have been a tornado," Griffin said. "There wasn't a lot of twisting in the debris."

Fortunately, there have been no injuries reported, according to Griffin.

"The whole back half of Rebuen Purcell's house was crushed," Griffin said. "The tree came down over their master bedroom. They had just gotten up and left the room, which is amazing, since the tree landed on their bed."

A large tree fell on half of Will Harrison's house at 301 Chestnut.

"We're okay," Harrison said. "It hit about midnight."

Oleta Turner's yard was a complete disaster. Turner, who lives alone at the corner of Walnut and Myrtle lost several trees, but her house seemed to have been spared any major damage.

"I've never seen a yard so torn up," said Winnsboro Mayor Carolyn Jones, who was contacted at the fire station. "I was driving around and people were already beginning to clean up. Several people had showed up with chain saws at Will's (Harrison) house."

People have been calling city hall, wanting to know if the dump was open, according to Browning.

"I told them we would get their debris as soon as we could," she said. "They said, 'No, we know your crews have their hands full. We'll take our stuff to the dump so they can help others."

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