The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

July 24, 2013

Just misses: Some storm damage in Alva; Tulsa is battered by high winds, flooding rains

Staff and wire reports
Enid News and Eagle

— The storms that raced through Oklahoma Tuesday night and through the next morning caused little damage in the western part of the state.

Other areas, like Tulsa, were battered with high winds and flooding rain.

Alva was the nearest town with high wind gusts, and also had some damage. A spokeswoman at Northwestern Oklahoma State University said there were “a bunch” of branches that had fallen on campus, and Alva Fire Chief Kirk Trekell said he’d heard numerous reports of wind damage.

“There was quite a bit of tree damage around town,” he said. “I heard this morning that there was one building just east of Alva that had quite a bit of roof damage. I don’t think the structure blew apart. I think most of the roofing material just blew off it.”

Trekell also said the Alva and Dacoma fire departments were called out late Tuesday to an oil field tank battery fire caused by lightning.

According to meteorological readings through Oklahoma’s Mesonet system, the weather station at Alva reported a wind gust of 61 mph, with sustained winds of about 37 mph. However, the wind didn’t last long.

“It just blew really hard for a few minutes, then let up,” Trekell said. “I could see the signature on the radar that indicated that we were going to get a lot of wind. It was a bow echo from a thunderstorm collapsing. It sure came through with some authority.”

The storm caused power outages across Oklahoma. In Woods County, some 1,700 people were without power during the brunt of the storm, according to utility provider OG&E Electric Services. As of Wednesday afternoon, there were no reported outages in northwestern Oklahoma.

As the storm blew eastward, it weakened. According to the Lahoma Mesonet station, just west of Enid, a wind gust only reached 41 mph.

Associate State Climatologist Gary McManus said these likely were straight-line winds.

“No tornadoes have been reported that I am aware of,” he said in an email.

Mike Honigsberg, certified director of Garfield County Emergency Management, said there appeared to be no damage in the county.

“Nobody’s reported any to me. I know we had some power outages, just a few here and there, but to my knowledge everything seems OK now,” he said. “We really didn’t catch the main brunt of the storms that came through. It was a little more west of us and a little bit east of us.”

The community of Pond Creek was one of those without power Wednesday morning. Richard Donaldson, with the Grant County emergency management office, said OG&E had been working to bring it back online.

“We are very, very lucky. So far, we’ve been doing pretty good,” he said.

A Kingfisher County official reported some limbs down south of Hennessey, and there appeared to be no damage in Major County, according to the emergency manager there.

The violent storm system packing up to 80 mph winds and lightning that churned through the Tulsa area early Wednesday was classified by meteorologists as a rare derecho because of the widespread wind damage it left throughout the city.

Meanwhile, nearly 70,000 homes and businesses in Tulsa County remained without electricity Wednesday afternoon — there were more than 100,000 at the storm’s peak — and utility officials said it could be several days until all power is restored.  

Authorities said one firefighter was injured while operating a chain saw to clean up debris, but the injuries weren’t life-threatening. No other injuries were reported.

National Weather Service meteorologist Karen Hatfield said derechos are a special type of damaging storm event that have consistent reports of wind damage or measured wind gusts of 58 mph or move for at least 250 miles.

Hatfield said forecasters at the weather service only informally discussed the possibility of the weather event, but did not use the term in forecasts.

Adding to the difficulty of classifying a possible derecho ahead of time, the classification typically comes after extensive field work to survey the wind damage, to estimate how widespread it was, she said.

The storm snapped power lines and decades-old trees, and left tens of thousands of homes and businesses without electricity.

A new batch of potentially violent thunderstorms could hit the same area. They are forecast to clip eastern Oklahoma late tonight and early Friday, according to the National Weather Service in Tulsa.

In Tulsa, the storms toppled trees, bent road signs and caused at least 10 house fires, the fire department reported. The city’s 911 call center was inundated with thousands of calls, causing a near-overload of the system. The supercell storms originated over Kansas and tracked southeast, holding together long enough to rake Tulsa.

Staff writer Dale Denwalt and The Associated Press contributed to this story.