Crews from AEP-Southwestern Electric Power Co. continued Thursday to restore electricity to the greater Longview area, the city worked to clear streets and schools adjusted schedules in the aftermath of a storm that dumped nearly 3 inches of rain in Longview.
Shreveport-based SWEPCO sent more than 300 linemen and other staffers to East Texas, southwestern Arkansas and northwestern Louisiana to restore service, spokesman Peter Main said in an email Thursday.
As of 1:30 p.m. Thursday, SWEPCO had restored service to 22,628 customers out of a total of 45,649 who lost power during the storm in a region stretching from Mineola east to Marshall and Henderson and Carthage north to Gilmer, according to data supplied by spokeswoman Karen Wissing.
Customers within the city of Longview constituted a majority at 18,152 who remained without power out of a total of 36,530 who lost it.
Wissing said the largest areas without service in Longview as of Thursday afternoon were in the Longview Heights area and Fourth Street at Le Duke Boulevard.
She estimated SWEPCO would restore power to 95 percent of all affected customers anywhere from noon Friday in Henderson, noon Saturday in Carthage, Gilmer, Kilgore and Marshall; 10 p.m. Saturday in Mineola; noon Sunday in Gladewater; and 10 p.m. Monday in Longview.
Wissing advised the public against approaching SWEPCO crews to ask questions.
“It slows the process down,” she said. “It delays the (power) restoration, and it is potentially unsafe for the public to enter a work zone.”
The storm that triggered the power failures and other disruptions dumped 2.93 inches of rain in Longview in a 24-hour period that ended 7 a.m. Thursday, according to hydrologist C.S. Ross of the National Weather Service in Shreveport. He said it brought the rainfall total this year as of Wednesday to 18.65 inches, 0.06 inches above normal but lower than the 23.78 inches recorded by the same time in 2018.
The power knockout affected traffic lights in Longview in addition to homes and businesses.
As of 1:30 p.m. Thursday, Longview police posted on Facebook that they continued to direct traffic at the intersection of Eden Drive and Eastman Road; Pegues Place and Judson Road; H.G. Mosley Parkway and McCann Road; Gilmer Road and H.G. Mosley; Fairmont Street and McCann Road; Fisher Road at West Marshall Avenue; Eden Drive and Judson Road; and Judson Road at H.G. Mosley Parkway.
Eden Drive remained closed indefinitely between Fourth Street and Eastman Road.
City police received an assist in traffic enforcement from the Gregg County Sheriff’s Office and county road crews, and the city of Kilgore sent four employees to help where the storm impeded access to emergency services, city spokesman Shawn Hara said.
Gregg County Sheriff Maxey Cerliano said his office sent 14 deputies beginning Wednesday night to help with directing traffic and securing areas that had been damaged. Two troopers for the Texas Department of Public Safety also helped, he said.
They helped through the night and into the morning, Cerliano said.
He said the sheriff’s office has numerous agreements with the city, adding he had not factored in the costs.
“Law enforcement and public safety are just going to respond to the emergency and providing assistance to whatever agency needs assistance,” he said. “Obviously, we all got hit (Wednesday). We did have numerous calls for service in the county related to trees down and power lines down, trees on houses.”
Hara said, “Whenever there is an emergency, it is a normal process for the city of Longview to have cooperation from Gregg County.”
He also cited efforts by the American Red Cross to aid displaced residents and volunteers from the International ALERT Academy in Big Sandy, Minute Men, Team Rubicon, the East Texas Builders Association and others.
ALERT, a private, faith-based trade school that stands for Air Land Emergency Resource Team, sent 16 students to remove trees from roads and yards in Longview, said Phillip Vanderford, mobile response team director.
“This is how we operate as a school, and it is part of every student’s training,” Vanderford said. The school provides training for emergency medical technicians, firefighters, public safety scuba divers and other rescue workers.
The ALERT students drew praise from Mary Barney, who said she watched them remove fallen trees from her mother’s Livingston Street neighborhood.
“I just want you to be aware how kind these people are,” she said.
While the ALERT students were busy, area school districts coped with the loss of power Thursday.
Within Longview ISD, J.L. Everhart Elementary, Bramlette STEAM Academy and Forest Park Middle School were without power Thursday. Longview ISD officials announced late Thursday that classes were canceled on those campuses for today. All other schools in the district are on regular schedules.
Regular schedules will be in effect today at Pine Tree ISD campuses, and buses will run. Power had been restored Thursday at PACE, the central office, primary and Birch campuses, along with transportation and other facilities.
Spring Hill ISD will be on regular schedules today with buses running as usual.
Union Grove ISD indicated on its Facebook page that it expects power to be restored today.
Gladewater ISD reported its elementary and middle schools without power Thursday.
The storm also affected schedules for finals Wednesday at the Longview campus of Kilgore College and at LeTourneau University.
A Kilgore College spokesman said 10 classes were scheduled to meet Wednesday, and estimated between 75 and 100 students would have to arrange to take make-up final exams.
His counterpart at LeTourneau, Janet Ragland, said finals that had been scheduled for beginning at 3 p.m. Wednesday were reset for 6 p.m. Thursday.
“There is really no way to know how many classes were affected,” she said, adding she received confirmation from only one class.
Ragland said the School of Nursing changed the venue of its nurse pinning ceremony at 7 tonight to Spring Hill First Baptist Church because of storm damage to Oakland Heights Baptist Church on Wednesday. More than 20 nursing students are expected to graduate.