Storm smashes through town

A power pole lies where it crashed through the fence of a home along Southwest Lee Boulevard near 67th Street Wednesday afternoon following a strong storm front that came crashing through the area. Comanche County Emergency Manager Clint Wagstaff said 12 power poles went down and 12 homes sustained damage due to the poles snapping and falling down under high winds. (Michael Pope)
A power pole lies where it crashed through the fence of a home along Southwest Lee Boulevard near 67th Street Wednesday afternoon following a strong storm front that came crashing through the area. Comanche County Emergency Manager Clint Wagstaff said 12 power poles went down and 12 homes sustained damage due to the poles snapping and falling down under high winds. (Michael Pope)

Hot on the heels of last week’s stormy weather, spring continues to roar through Southwest Oklahoma as heavy rains and high winds powered through late Wednesday afternoon leaving a wake of damage and electrical outages.

A windy and humid afternoon in Lawton developed into strong gusts of high winds and a short burst of rain which dumped 0.60 inch of rain in the downtown area and three quarters of an inch at the airport. Following the late-afternoon storm barrage, Southwest Oklahomans braced for another round from a front projected to hit the area late Wednesday night. However, with skies clearing and winds shuttered down to a mild breeze by 7:30 p.m., residents were granted a reprieve to clean up and assess the damage. Most of the area remained under a tornado watch into the night, according to the National Weather Service.

Comanche County Emergency Manager Clint Wagstaff reported 12 power poles went down and 12 homes sustained damage due to the poles snapping and falling down under high winds from the storm that struck Lawton minutes after 5 p.m. Though a large amount of the storm damage was reported on Lawton’s southwest side, a pole went down near Northeast 45th and Bell Avenue that took out the electricity for a portion of power customers in that area.

At 6:30 p.m., PSO reported 21 percent of its Comanche County customers — 9,623 — were without power following the storm. In Tillman County, 43 percent — 666 — of its customers were left without power. Also, Cotton Electric Cooperative reported 219 of its 8,065 Comanche County customers without power shortly after 6 p.m. The number was just over 100 by 8:30 p.m.

Tim Hushbeck, AEP/PSO spokesman, said that workers continued to reroute power to those affected by the outages. By 8 p.m., just over 4,000 Comanche County customers remained without power and within an half-hour, the number was closer to 1,000 and down to 212 by 9 p.m. Travel was closed along Lee Boulevard, between Southwest 52nd and 67th streets as debris from the broken power poles and other damages was removed from the roadway.

A Lawton firefighter soaks the smoking stem of the sign at Church's Chicken, 901 S. 11th, after it caught fire minutes after 6 p.m. Wednesday when a storm front blew through town.  The cause was believed to be electrical, but the fire remains under investigation. (Scott Rains)
A Lawton firefighter soaks the smoking stem of the sign at Church’s Chicken, 901 S. 11th, after it caught fire minutes after 6 p.m. Wednesday when a storm front blew through town. The cause was believed to be electrical, but the fire remains under investigation. (Scott Rains)

“We’re trying to get as many people back online as fast as we can,” Hushbeck said. “There are going to be some customers along Lee Boulevard that are going to be without it a little longer due to the poles that snapped.” Hushbeck said he’d received reports that wind speeds were between 50-75 mph. Wednesday was AEP/PSO’s 100th birthday. Instead of candles, it was power poles blown down, he said.

“Obviously they (the winds) were pretty strong,” Hushbeck said. “They’d have to be to snap the gauge of pole we use. It’s going to take a lot to take one of those down.”

The area of Lee Boulevard often receives damage to the poles that line the roadway during massive storms. Many locals will remember the scene of poles laying on their side after the ice storm of January 2010. Hushbeck said he believes the area’s natural terrain may create a weather pattern that makes that area more susceptible to storm damage.

“It’s always a crapshoot, you never know, but history will tell you there’s been some incidents there,” Hushbeck said. “When you get a downdraft, more or less, it can accelerate the winds through there. We probably had that today.”

Cassie Williams said she was preparing for the worst after a power pole fell into her backyard and crushed her kids’ swing set. She was at her house with her twin, 10-year-old sons and 7-yearold daughter. The family lives near Southwest 62nd and Lee Boulevard, next to a medical clinic.

A power pole lies where it crashed through the fence of a home along Southwest Lee Boulevard near 67th Street Wednesday afternoon following a strong storm front that came crashing through the area. Comanche County Emergency Manager Clint Wagstaff said 12 power poles went down and 12 homes sustained damage due to the poles snapping and falling down under high winds. (Michael Pope)
A power pole lies where it crashed through the fence of a home along Southwest Lee Boulevard near 67th Street Wednesday afternoon following a strong storm front that came crashing through the area. Comanche County Emergency Manager Clint Wagstaff said 12 power poles went down and 12 homes sustained damage due to the poles snapping and falling down under high winds. (Michael Pope)

“My kids were playing the Wii and I told them to get off so I could check the weather, the wind picked up and it was dark outside,” Williams said. “Thew news wasn’t coming on (power knocked out the cable feed for the local television station) and I noticed it got really windy.”

“I went to the back sliding door to see what I could see and I saw a a pole directly outside my house begin cracking and fall towards the house,” she said. “I screamed and ran for my kids — I thought it was going to come crashing in on me, I didn’t know what to do.”

Williams said no one was injured, though she cut her foot while running barefoot through the house — “I probably stepped on a Lego or something.” She said the family was without power and she was preparing for the worst. It wouldn’t be the first time, she said. During the ice storm that struck a few years ago, the home was without power for 16 days.

“I’m hoping it doesn’t last that long,” Williams said. “I went grocery shopping yesterday and I’m hoping the food doesn’t spoil. I’m just hoping for the best and, mainly, I hope no one was hurt.”

No serious injuries were reported in Lawton.

The line of storms brought with it dark clouds and much needed rainfall along with reports of hail and high winds in the surrounding area.

Power outages struck throughout the region. Cotton Electric Cooperative reported Cotton County had 26 customers with reported outages; Tillman County reported 106 of its 450 customers were out; and in Caddo County, five of its 12 customers were without power after the storm made its way north/northeast. Most of these customers were back on line by 8 p.m.

A barn and home were damaged when winds up to 70 mph raced through northwest of Walters, according to the Cotton County Sheriff’s Office. No injuries or other widespread damage was reported.

Cache Fire Chief Dale Winham said the storm came through that city around 5 p.m. bringing with it some heavy rains and winds, but no hail or any storm damage. “It was pouring down rain for about 10 minutes,” he said.

Winham said the storms impaired driving conditions for motorists. “I was driving a pickup truck down Deyo Mission Road and being blown around by very strong winds,” he said. “Visibility was down to ‘zero.’”

Another Cache weather observer reported heavy rain for a short time in the city limits.

“It rained pretty heavy for awhile,” said Wayne Gipson of the Trading Post. About .30 of an inch was reported, he said just after 6 p.m.

Wind gusts reached as high as 71 mph in the Altus area, where brief torrential rain was also reported. Wayne Cain, Jackson County emergency management director, said the storm came through at approximately 3:55 p.m.

“We had a storm roll through that downed six power lines and dropped pea-sized hail east of Altus,” he said.

Cain said the roof of a building on the north end of the football stadium at Altus High School was damaged by straight-line winds. “There was debris scattered on the practice field,” he said.

Quaid Ogletree of the Frederick Fire Department reported that the city missed out on the storms that rolled through the area. “We just barely got any rain,” he said.

The Snyder Fire Department reported rain from the storms, but not high winds or hail reported in other areas. “It didn’t last but about 15 minutes,” said Mayor Stan Moddie.

 

Story By: Scott Rains & Mark Potter from Lawton Constitution.