County slammed by storms

County slammed by storms

Posted: Thursday, May 26, 2011 9:06 pm
By: Kevin Bowden and Chris Menees

By KEVIN BOWDEN
& CHRIS MENEES
Staff Reporters
Violent storms slammed into Obion County overnight, downing trees, knocking out power and flooding roads throughout the county.
It was a night of powerful storms that forecasters predicted throughout the day Wednesday.
Obion County Highway Department superintendent Gary Lofton talked to The Messenger at 7 a.m. today, after an hour and a half of sleep.
“I’m pretty tired,” he said, noting that he and his crews hit the roads about 5 p.m. Wednesday and were out until 4 a.m. today clearing roadways of fallen trees and tree limbs.
Lofton and his work crews were back at work early today and he said they would be cutting up trees and tree limbs and removing them from the roadside throughout the day.
“We had two trackhoes, four chainsaws and eight people out throughout the night,” he told The Messenger. “It was pretty much countywide.”
Lofton estimated about 25 roads across the county were blocked by fallen limbs and trees “and some of those roads had multiple trees.”
Lake Road resident Mad-die Carrington lost a giant catalpa tree in her front yard. The tree was considered one of the largest of its kind in the state. Today it is draped horizontally over power lines in her front yard.
Wednesday night’s storms came in waves between 7 and 8 p.m., bringing heavy rains, powerful lightning and high-velocity straight-line winds. Many area residents were left without power as those straight-line winds knocked down limbs and trees over power lines.
The Obion County Sher-iff’s Department was out in force Wednesday night dealing with some of the storm damage. Sheriff Jerry Vastbinder, Chief Deputy Kent Treece and a full crew of deputies were spread out across the county helping to identify problem areas and actually clearing the roadways.
Among those areas were Highway 89 between Kenton and Mason Hall, the Highway 22 West area, the Clayton area, the Cloverdale and Elbridge area and the Minnick area.
Union City was also particularly hard hit, and police officers were out during the height of the storm and in its aftermath surveying damage around the city. There were several scattered reports of trees, limbs and commercial signs being downed.
The west side of Union City appeared to have been hit the hardest and Union City Assistant Police Chief Perry Barfield said there was damage reported along West Main Street around Abernathy’s and to the Danny Larcom Heating & Air building. Utility poles were also damaged in the area, including one which snapped between Abernathy’s and the intersection of West Main Street and Everett Boulevard.
Barfield said some traffic lights were torn down at South First Street and Reelfoot Avenue and in front of Lowe’s on West Reelfoot Avenue, and some recreational vehicles were overturned on West Reelfoot Avenue across from the Hampton Inn.
A car at Third and Bransford streets was crushed when a tree apparently toppled onto it. It was one of several reports of large trees being downed by high winds.
“The majority (of damage) was trees,” Barfield said this morning.
No significant damage was reported in South Fulton at the north end of the county, where police  dispatch said this morning that only a couple of trees were on power lines.
Power outages
More than 4,500 Gibson Electric Membership Corp. customers suffered outages following Wednesday night’s powerful storms. Obion, Lake and north Gibson counties were hit hardest, but there were outages scattered throughout the co-op’s northwest Tennessee service area.
Crews have been working since the outages began at 7 p.m. Wednesday and have restored power to about 4,150 customers, but there is still much work left to do, according to a GEMC spokesman.
GEMC president and CEO Dan Rodamaker said early today the co-op’s initial damage assessment shows about 25 broken poles, eight of which are double circuit.
“Crews are working as quickly as possible, but the repairs will take a while. It is not possible yet to estimate when service will be restored, but customers should plan for extended outages,” Rodamaker saiid.
GEMC vice president of operations Barry Smith said crews will make the repairs that will benefit the most customers first, then they will go back and do the repairs that are more time intensive and benefit fewer customers. He said this is why customers may see crews working in an area, but leaving without repairing individual services.
Smith said customers without power should check the entrance of the electric service to their homes. If damaged, the homeowner should arrange for an electrician to make those repairs. Smith explained that doing so will speed up service restoration.
The Union City Electric System lost power to about 750 customers due to storm damage Wednesday night. As of 9 a.m. today, all but isolated cases had been restored.
“Our crews worked very hard to get as many people as possible back on as quickly as possible,” UCES manager Jerry Bailey said. “The remaining customers out of service are largely due to isolated cases of tree damage and many require equipment on the house to be repaired by an electrician before we can reconnect them.”
Bailey said the electric system requested help from other systems but the systems in this area also had their own systems that needed repair following the storms.
“We plan to have all the customers back on at least by Friday that can be connected,” he said. “I’m proud of our employees and the work they did last night, and we regret the inconvenience caused to our customers.”
Staff Reporter Kevin Bowden may be contacted by e-mail at kmbowden@ucmessenger.com; and Staff Reporter Chris Menees may be contacted by e-mail at cmenees@ucmessenger.com.
Published in The Messenger 5.26.11

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