“Derecho” storm causes widespread havoc on area

By David Taylor
Managing Editor

Cleanup is still ongoing across much of the Texas Gulf Coast including east Harris County after the area was struck by an unexpected band of thunderstorms that created straight-line winds of 70 to 100 mph.

The thunder storms rolled across the Houston/Harris County area late last Thursday afternoon and early evening catching many off guard.

While there was damage by a few tornados, the widespread damage meteorologists attributed to a Derecho, a new weather term that many had never heard.

ABC-13 Chief Meteorologist Travis Herzog called the event a Derecho, a very long-lived and damaging thunderstorm with a wide swath extending more than 240 miles and with wind gusts of at least 58 mph or greater along the path of the storm.

According to the National Weather Service, winds on the east side of Houston exceeded that reaching from the 70s into the 90-100 mph range wreaking havoc everywhere.

“Based on structural damage and some images widespread winds of 80- 110mph impacted areas from Brenham to Cypress to Downtown Houston to Galveston Bay. Radar was showing winds of 120-130 mph just above the surface and some of this may have mixed down in isolated areas,” said Harris County meteorologist Jeff Lindner.

Within the larger swath of strong winds, it is likely there was some pockets of tornado damage … but much of the damage over the metro area was straight line winds.

Thousands of trees across the area were twisted like toothpicks and limbs strewn across neighborhood roads and boulevards.

The area had already been saturated with heavy rains the last couple of weeks and the Derecho only exacerbated that with gusts that took down mammoth trees, fences, carports, and rooftops.

It was the worst windstorm producing hurricane Category 2 force winds since Hurricane Ike which left considerable destruction in its wake. It was up to three weeks before most of the area received power.

Lindner, who visited the Bellaire Centerpoint Center, watched as 30,000 customers were coming back online.

“Learned a lot about power distribution, circuits, and how it all works. A lot goes into it,” he said.

He explained residents might see teams come through and leave.

“They are the assessment or scout crews that see where the damage is and what is needed to fix it. Some may see power on across the street and this is likely a fuse where something that has impacted the line/load and the fuse pops and prevents the entire circuit from going offline,” he explained.

More than 5,000 teams from power companies as far away as Kentucky, Florida, and North Carolina and across the state and country have traveled to the Gulf Coast to assist with recovery efforts.

“We are members of a mutual aid group so when there’s a disaster anywhere in the country, these folks all respond at our request,” said Logan Anderson, Texas senior communications specialist for CenterPoint Energy.

She pointed out the CenterPoint participates and sends crews across the nation to assist others.

At the height of the storm, more than 920,000 customers were without power.

Anderson said even though they only received about 15 minutes of warning that the storm had developed, they were prepared to respond.

“We were not going to let the hurricane season sneak up on us since it begins June 1, so we have been in emergency preparation efforts and we already have our emergency response resources ready,” she said.

It hasn’t been a shortage of equipment that has slowed them down, but something else.

“It’s just the level of widespread damage that we’ve incurred,” she said. “We had heavy rains before this, and the winds just picked up trees and vegetation and wreaked havoc on us.”

Anderson urged homeowners to get their tree and shrub trimming done as the hurricane season approaches.

“It can’t be overstated that the tree branches, trees, limbs, and debris impacted the system. Please hire licensed and qualified professionals who can tend to dying vegetation on your property,” she urged.

All area school districts were closed on Friday, most of them were without power to conduct classes. By Monday, all but Channelview and Galena Park ISD were reopened.

“Since the storm, district leadership and operations teams have closely monitored our campuses and facilities,” said a post from Galena Park ISD. “Our latest operational survey shows that 19 buildings are currently without power, and we do not have an estimate for power restoration.”

In Crosby, parents received notification on Sunday night after 7 p.m. on the potential for school on Monday.

Sunday night the district posted that Newport Elementary and Crosby Kindergarten Center, including the PreK side, were the last to have their power restored. School was in session on Monday.

Crisis cleanup for Harris County residents can receive assistance by calling 832-509-2977. For residents who sustained losses due to the weather can begin applying for assistance at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or calling 800-621-FEMA (3362).

SBA Disaster Loan applications are available to homeowners, renters, and businesses of all sizes in areas covered by a disaster declaration. Visit lending.sba.gov to get started.

If residents still need help, for immediate assistance and access to help and resources, dial 2-1-1.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.