Storms that wreaked havoc across much of East Texas on Saturday largely took it easy on the immediate Longview area.
Elsewhere in Texas, the Associated Press reported two children died in Lufkin as winds toppled a tree onto the back of their moving car, killing the 3- and 8-year-olds in the back seat while their parents were unharmed in the front seat.
The AP also reported about a dozen others were injured in wind-related incidents in Angelina County, where Lufkin is the seat. The wire service also reported a possible tornado struck Franklin in Central Texas, overturning mobile homes and damaging other homes.
The Caddo Mounds State Historical Site in Cherokee County closed after a possible tornado damaged it. News-Journal news partner KETK reported about 20 people visiting the site were injured in the storm.
But the one-two punch Mother Nature promised for the Longview area never really delivered its second blow, officials with the city and Gregg County reported Saturday.
“We got very lucky,” Mayor Andy Mack said Saturday evening, shortly before joining crowds at the Longview PRCA Rodeo. “The only thing (police and fire chiefs) had to report was the lightning strike on Harley Ridge (Road).”
Mack said a home on that street had been struck during the storms that passed through overnight Friday.
“But there were no injuries,” he added. “We were lucky not to be in the eye of that storm. We were prepared for the worst.”
Longview police spokesman Lt. Shane McCarter said damage to the home struck by lightning was confined to the attic. He added there had been another lightning-related call to an oil lease site on Greggtex Road in Northwest Longview.
“Just trees down and power lines down,” McCarter summed up reports coming to him Saturday.
Gregg County sheriff’s spokesman Cpl. Josh Tubb said about 7:30 p.m. Saturday that he had received no reports of major damage in the county.
Dispatchers for the Department of Public Safety centers in Tyler and Texarkana reported no major traffic headaches arising from the storm. Some cars hydroplaned, but no major crashes occurred across Northeast Texas.
Dispatchers for the Upshur and Rusk county sheriff’s offices both reported no major storm damage after the main thrust of the system pushed through — only the typical tree limbs blown down and some power lines compromised.
AEP Southwestern Electric Power Co. reported sending crews out overnight Saturday to restore power to nearly 14,000 customers in SWEPCO’s three-state service area. Those included some 2,500 customers in Texas.
There were 553 customers in Longview who lost power, the company website indicated Saturday evening.
The company was estimating 95 percent of residents without power in Longview or Marshall should see it restored by 2 p.m. today. Customers in Gilmer, Gladewater and Kilgore were expected to have power back by 10 p.m. Saturday, the company said.
The National Weather Service reported damaging winds and nickel-sized hail falling in the most severe parts of the system that swept across the state.
Weather today is predicted to be cloudy with no precipitation anticipated. Winds will gust to 30 mph.
Gregg County’s neighbor to the east took a strong hit from the overnight portion of the system.
“We didn’t have any tornado touchdowns, but we had areas that have been ripped with a lot of trees,” Harrison County Fire Marshal Thomas Mock said.
One area in particular — near Shady Grove Mobile Home Park in the 14000 block of FM 968, on the Harrison County side of Longview — was hit hard, he indicated.
“We were very fortunate down on (FM) 968, just east of Loop 281,” the fire marshal said. “A mobile home park down there had a lot of trees (fall) directly behind (it).”
During the early morning hours Saturday, Harrison County sheriff’s deputies, crews with the Texas Department of Transportation and Harrison County road and bridge crews cleared trees from affected roads.
“We have trees blocking Farm-to-Market Road 1999, FM 1998, Sue Belle Lake Road and Liberty Cut-off,” Harrison County Chief Deputy Brandon Fletcher said shortly before 9 a.m. Saturday.
Gary Chatelain, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Shreveport, said the thunderstorm wind damage started in Harrison County at 6:53 a.m. Saturday.
“Damage reported from Scottsville to Karnack (indicated) multiple trees on roadways, and 10 utility poles down,” Chatelain said, noting no damage was reported to homes by Saturday morning.
As a result of the downed utility poles in Scottsville, officials closed FM 2199 from U.S. 80 to FM 1998 while SWEPCO crews worked to restore power. As of 2:30 p.m., the electrical company was still on the scene, trying to clear the roads of power lines. Drivers were met by barricades as they attempted to drive through.
Fletcher noted that 911 dispatchers also received calls regarding flooding over various roadways. Chatelain with NWS said, fortunately, the area didn’t have any straight line wind damage.
“You had gusts of 20-25 miles per hour (winds) — no straight line wind damage,” Chatelain said of Harrison County.
The strongest winds were reported in Shreveport and Longview — both at 30 mph.
Nickel-sized hail was reported in Marshall around 10:16 a.m., Chatelain said. The largest sized hail reported to the National Weather Service was at 2.5 inches in Cass County, near Linden.
“That’s pretty big,” Chatelain said of Linden’s report. “That’s bigger than golf balls, smaller than tennis balls …. like ping pongs.”
Around 4 p.m. Saturday, Fletcher announced that roads impacted by early morning storms were open and passable.