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2013-02-28

High winds wreak havoc across the city, county

By Carolyn B. Edwards BCC Staff Writer

Gusty winds blew through Bandera County Monday, Feb. 25, breaking branches off trees, tearing roofing off buildings, damaging equipment and spreading fires in various locations. The strong west to northwest winds were part of an upper level front that swept across the state.
Bandera County Sheriff's Office dispatch got busy around mid-afternoon with a flurry of fire calls from Bump Gate Road to Lakehills, from Bear Springs Road in Pipe Creek to Elm Creek Road.
Bandera Fire Department volunteers responded to a call of roof damage at the Hill Country Pest Control and Country Puppy Dog Grooming on Highway 16 North around 3:30 pm. Sheets of metal roofing had been torn off the roof and more threatened to fly. The volunteers struggled in the high winds to gather up the dangerous sheets and pin them down.
According to County Fire Marshall John Stith, four of the county's volunteer fire departments were called out Monday afternoon and evening. "None of the fires got out of control," said Stith, who urged residents to be very careful with burning during this season, when winds can come up suddenly. That includes being cautious about grilling in the back yard.
A fire on Elm Creek appeared to be a 10-day-old controlled burn that started up again in the windy conditions. It was quickly brought under control.
City law enforcement officers and the fire department responded to a call of a downed power line at 1107 Cedar Street behind Back in the Saddle gift shop. Officers determined that it was a phone cable and not a threat.
City of Bandera officials reported trees and branches down across the city, including a tree in City Park. Municipal crews were busy Monday and Tuesday collecting and removing the debris.
Bandera ISD Super-intendent Regina Howell reported very minor wind damage throughout the school district. An Alkek Elementary student said a "dirt tornado" that formed on the drought stricken soccer fields at that school drove students indoors, cutting recess short.
Bandera Electric Cooperative crews were out working from around 10:45 am until after midnight, reported Katie Haby, communication specialist for the utility provider. "We had a lot of members who lost power yesterday, almost all as a result of high winds," said Haby. Some of the outages involved large areas of coverage and there were also a lot of individuals who lost power.
The largest outage occurred in Utopia, where 720 people were without power for a little less than three hours. Tarpley had 451 people powerless for about four hours.
In Bandera, Haby reported 240 members were without power for less than 20 minutes and a group of 10 residents lost power in the city for almost six hours.
Lakehills and Pipe Creek saw a number of individual outages, with 11 in one area near Medina Lake.
In addition to the high winds, some of the outages were caused "by trees falling across lines or metal roofs flying into power lines," said Haby.
Section Maintenance Supervisor Todd Sandidge at the Texas Department of Transportation offices in Bandera County said there was a lot of signal damage throughout the region, but "we didn't have a lot of that here." Sandidge reported that his crews were kept busy Monday and Tuesday clearing away downed tree limbs from state roadways and picking up trash that collected along fences and guardrails. A traffic light at the intersection of highways 16 and 46 in Pipe Creek was apparently damaged by the high winds.
The National Weather Service recorded gusts up to 55 mph in Kerrville. Hondo recorded the strongest gust in the region, with one blasting by at 64 mph.
In San Antonio, three lives were lost in a fire on Pearsall Road and 31,000 residents of the city were without power for a portion of the day.

Pictured: Photo by Carolyn B. Edwards
High winds with gusts topping out at over 60 miles per hour swept through Bandera County Monday, Feb. 25, causing damage across a wide swath of territory.