EAST TEXAS, TX (KLTV/KTRE) - Strong storms moving through East Texas early Thursday morning knocked out electricity for thousands of people and left behind fallen trees, downed power lines and extensive damage to homes.
No injuries have been reported, officials say.
The National Weather Service determined the damage was caused by straight-line winds.
About 3 a.m. Thursday, the National Weather Service had issued several severe thunderstorm warnings as a line of strong thunderstorms moved through the region. Strong winds and hail were reported.
A 62 mph wind gust was reported at East Texas Regional Airport in Gregg County at 3:14 a.m., according to the Shreveport Forecast Office of the NWS. Dime-sized hail was also reported on Interstate 20 at the Harrison/Gregg county line.
Aaron Davis with the NWS said there did not appear to be signs of tornadic activity. The weather service reports they believe the damage was caused by straight-line winds from a “bowing line segment.”
The Kilgore area sustained heavy damage. About 2:30 p.m. Thursday, Kilgore city officials announced a news conference to provide residents with an update on storm recovery efforts. Much of the city has been without power throughout the day and emergency crews have been working to remove storm debris.
The Kilgore Police Department’s Facebook page also had a post that stated the Kilgore Parks Fitness Center, which is located on Laird Street west of Broadway Boulevard, will be open to the public until 9 p.m. tonight.
“Anyone in need will be able to shower and charge their electronic devices,” the Facebook post stated. “The Fitness Center will re-open at 5 a.m., Friday morning.”
Saint Luke Methodist will NOT remain open all night. The church says they will close at 6 p.m. Thursday.
The Red Cross has set up an information center at Kilgore Intermediate School, 2300 Whipporwill Lane. The organization is providing water, coffee and snacks for those in need, but will not remain open tonight. To get assistance from the Red Cross, they ask that you call them at 1-866-505-4801.
A Kilgore official said Thursday during the news conference that a number of roads remain closed throughout the city and that numerous power lines remain down.
The public safety team was called out to 53 incidents - many of the calls were for reports of downed power lines and suspected gas leaks. No injuries were reported in the city.
The City of Kilgore released a statement earlier in the day in regard to the storm.
“Thousands of homes have received damage and are currently without power in the south part of Kilgore, as severe straight-line winds hit the area at approximately 3:15 a.m., Thursday morning," the statement reads. "The Kilgore Public Safety units have responded to hundreds of incidents following the severe winds, the majority of calls were downed power lines and trees with many roads completely blocked in the south part of town. The Fire Department also responded to several calls with trees fallen on houses, several gas leaks and one vehicle with a tree fallen on it.”
To report storm damage to your home, contact Kilgore Dispatch at 903-983-1559. In the event of an emergency, call 911.
Damage was also reported at the East Texas Regional Airport in Gregg County.
Airport Director Roy Miller said 60 mph winds blew down a light pole at the airport. The pole then hit a piece of the perimeter fence. Miller said no injuries were reported.
Officials with LeTourneau University Aviation also reported damage to LETU property at the airport.
The aviation center sustained damage to the roofing and to a maintenance aircraft that is used for teaching and training purposes. A wing on the plane was damaged.
A statement from Upshur Rural Electric Cooperative at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday stated that after the storm blew through at around 2:30 a.m., 18,000 of their customers lost their electricity, due to broken poles and blown arrestors. They said that as of 4 p.m. today, they have 500 members without power still, in Diana, Harleton and Shady Shores, primarily. In those areas, broken poles are being replaced, which slows the restoration process. They say that for the majority of the 500 customers left without power, they anticipate restoration by midnight, assuming no complications arise.
“Severe lightning and straight-line winds in excess of 40 miles per hour in some places blew limbs and, in some cases, entire trees over. Upshur Rural experienced multiple broken poles and blown arrestors,” the company said in a statement. “Crews and contractor crews will continue to work until power is restored. Thankfully, we have heard no reports of injuries.”
Mark Robinson, with Southwestern Electric Power Company, said Thursday during the news conference in Kilgore that the company’s biggest concern is safety.
He urged East Texans to treat any downed line as if it was an active, energized line and to immediately call in and report it to company.
When the storms initially struck, SWEPCO reported 9,300 people were without power. Now, 2,300 East Texans remain without power. Robinson said the timeline to have power 95 percent restored is set for late Friday or early Saturday morning.
Customers will need to check with their provider for information on estimated restoration of service. SWEPCO asks residents to report any downed power lines through their app or by calling it in at 1-888-218-3919.
Oncor reported 342 customers without power. The majority of those outages were reported in the south Tyler area.
In Rusk County, Rusk County Electric Cooperative reported 223 customers without power.
Check power outage maps for your area below:
Residents reported trees and power lines down in the Kilgore, Tyler, Gilmer, and Longview areas.
In Gilmer, the roof was torn off the Coil Specialist Inc. building, located in the 200 block of Dean Street, and tossed into the parking lot of the neighboring Gilmer Inn.
A tree fell on the Republic Icehouse in Tyler. According to the assistant manager, the water and gas have been turned off while they assess the damage. They reported the A.C. unit possibly has been damaged. At this time, they are not sure when they will open.
Straight-line winds knocked downs trees and power lines in the Lake Cherokee area. The community reported power is out for most of the residents. Crews are out cleaning up and blocking downed power lines as Rusk County Electric crews work quickly to restore power and clean things up.
At 3:45 p.m. on Thursday, Terry Linder with Kilgore Police Department said that the only major thoroughfare still closed is at Woodlawn Street at Broadway. It should be clear by 4 p.m., Linder said.
Earlier on Thursday, U.S. Highway 259 Business entering Kilgore from Henderson was closed to traffic. Traffic was diverted to the Hwy. 259 Bypass, according to Kilgore Police. It has since reopened.
As of 7:25 a.m., Kilgore police reported all of Dudley Road has been reopened.
At 9:30 a.m., the City of Kilgore reported Highway 259 between Woodlawn and Harris Street was closed; it has since reopened. They also reported Woodlawn, North Broadway, Industrial and Commerce have all been cleared.
The following closings have been reported:
* First Baptist Church Child Development Center in Gilmer
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