Some still powerless after storm

Lightning briefly lights up a blacked-out section of Valley Mills Dr. at Lake Air Dr.Kevin Freeman | Lariat Photographer
Lightning briefly lights up a blacked-out section of Valley Mills Dr. at Lake Air Dr.
Kevin Freeman | Lariat Photographer

By Rebecca Flannery
Staff Writer

Several businesses and residential homes in west Waco are slowly regaining power after the storm blew through Thursday, causing damage to 102 buildings.

Sean Taylor, assistant emergency management coordinator for the City of Waco, said 16 homes in the area are still experiencing electricity-related issues as of Monday. He said so far the city has picked up 584,800 pounds of rubble and debris.

Eddie Ferguson, area manager for the energy provider, Oncor, said the storm affected about 10,000 customers.

“We went out and finished the major repairs Sunday afternoon around noon,” Ferguson said. “What’s left is the few minor cleanup items that some customers need fixed.”

Ferguson said tree limbs falling on power lines were the main reason for the outages. About 40 broken poles needed repairs after the storm, he said.

“It’s a long process,” Ferguson said. “First we have to make sure there aren’t any power lines down that could be harmful, then we get our stations back on, followed by our major circuits and neighborhood lines.”

Ferguson said of the outages fixed, 70 percent were residential and the remaining were commercial.

“We dispatched crews to the affected areas to assess damage prior to committing them to specific neighborhoods and cities,” according to Oncor’s website.

“A lot of what was picked up and dragged to the side of the street were trees and tree limbs,” Taylor said.

He said while many people assumed a tornado came through the city, it was actually a severe thunderstorm with wind speeds from 70 to 80 miles per hour.

“When winds get high enough, a lot more damage can be done than people think,” Taylor said.

Businesses with visible damage like Hobby Lobby, a craft store on Richland Drive, are still being investigated by city assessments that will determine the cost of damage and repairs that need to take place, Taylor said. Other visible damage in the city included broken windows at the Westview Nursery and Landscape on North Valley Mills Drive, knocked-over billboards near the Goodwill store on Valley Mills and the Baris sign, which fell off and landed on top of a parked car in the restaurant’s parking lot on the same street.

“We don’t have an estimated cost at the moment,” Taylor said. “We have to submit our city assessments to the state, and then they have to come look and inspect for themselves.”

Taylor said he was not aware of any injuries besides a few minor car accidents due to the heavy rain.

Friendswood junior Katie Smiley was driving through the storm around 6:45 p.m. when she realized how severe it was.

“There was a huge tree that had fallen in the middle of the road that police were directing traffic around,” Smiley said. “If it had fallen the other way, it would have completely destroyed a house next to it.”

Sgt. Patrick Swanton, public information officer for the Waco Police Department, said the city is still in the process of picking up trees and brush around the affected areas.

“Power has been restored to the damaged areas,” Swanton said. “Now it’s just a matter of getting residents to collect debris and put it on the sidewalk to be picked up.”