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High winds, heavy rains topple trees

Posted on Tuesday, January 8, 2013 at 7:08 pm

No snow. No ice.

It wasn’t a typical winter storm — not here at least.

Instead, high winds and heavy rains battered Middle Tennessee on Christmas night and early into Dec. 26, wreaking havoc on holiday travelers statewide, while leaving many in Moore County without power and some without phone service.

There were only a few intermittent snow flurries remaining by Wednesday afternoon.

For the most part, Lynchburg and Moore County were spared. The Metro Moore County Sheriff’s Department received a number of calls on Dec. 25, primarily for downed trees in roadways.

“We had several trees down that’s pretty much all we had,” said Moore County Sheriff Mark Logan. “If it’s too big for us to handle, we will just sit on it and wait for the highway department to come so no one runs into it.”

“A lot of times we are able to move the smaller stuff ourselves; and we will take trustees with us because they are pretty good at helping with things like that.”

“I think the most amazing one is where Steve May lives. I don’t know how that (tree) missed his house.”

Wind downed a tree at May’s residence on Main Street. The tree missed his house, but snagged some power lines and landed on a car.

“My neighbor’s tree fell on my wife’s car, crushing it,” said May. “I was just sitting there in the house on the sofa and I heard a big crash, ‘boom!’ I thought a car had crashed into my front yard, but what happened, when I walked out there, was ‘oh my God,’ a tree is down on my car.

“And about the time we came out, there was a big sound; one of the transformers had popped. It knocked the electrical lines down, but we still had power. It was interesting. We were just fortunate that it wasn’t worse. We’ll be fine … we’ll just have some great firewood for winter.”

According to Brad Gibson, director of member services for Duck River Electric Membership Corporation, there were 61 residences in Moore County with reported power outages on Christmas night. The outages lasted between four and six hours.

“We had one outage that began around 9 o’clock on the evening of the 25th that impacted 24 members that lasted about 3 1/2 hours,” said Gibson. “During that outage, we had another outage that began about 9:30 and impacted 37 customers.”

Still, area residents were fortunate compared to others who were impacted by the storm.

The storm system spawned tornadoes on Christmas along the Gulf Coast. Officials assessed the damage on Wednesday and Thursday of last week in the areas where the storm had passed.

More than 25 storm-related injuries were reported in Mississippi, the state’s emergency management office said. No fatalities were reported.

In addition to the injuries, about 70 homes were damaged, most in the southern portion of the state.

Officials at the National Weather Service gave a preliminary EF2 rating to a tornado that struck downtown Mobile on Christmas Day.

“Our main priority is focused on recovery,” said John Kilcullen, director of operations for emergency management in Mobile, Ala.

Other tornadoes — one that went though parts of Choctaw County, Ala., and ones than struck Stone, Lawrence and Jones counties in Mississippi — also were EF2’s, which have wind speeds (for three-second bursts) between 111 and 135 miles per hour.

The weather service said an even stronger EF3-rated tornado struck Pearl River County in Mississippi.

On Christmas day Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant declared a state of emergency for several of his battered counties, a declaration that helps get support to victims. He said that at least eight counties reported damage and injuries.

Deaths from wind-toppled trees also were reported in Texas and Louisiana, but car crashes caused most of the fatalities. Many of those were snow and ice related. Holiday travelers in the nation’s much colder midsection battled treacherous driving conditions from freezing rain and blizzard conditions from the same fast-moving storms.

Two people were killed in Kentucky crashes, a New York man was killed after his pickup truck skidded on an icy road in northwest Pennsylvania, and an Ohio teenager died after losing control of her car and smashing into an oncoming snowplow.

In Arkansas, where two people died in a head-on collision, some of those who lost electricity could be without it for as long as a week because of snapped poles and wires after ice and 10 inches of snow coated power lines, said the state’s largest utility, Entergy Arkansas.

Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe declared a statewide disaster.

The holiday may conjure visions of snow and ice, but twisters this time of year are not unheard of. Ten storm systems in the last 50 years have spawned at least one Christmas-time tornado with winds of 113 mph or more in the South, said Chris Vaccaro, a National Weather Service spokesman in Washington.

The most lethal were the storms of Dec. 24-26, 1982, when 29 tornadoes in Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee and Mississippi killed three people and injured 32.


By ROBERT HOLMAN, Editor (Additional information from Associated Press reports)

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