At the Emergency Operations Center of the Cleveland-Bradley County Emergency Management Agency, the official recorded temperature Thursday was 103, with a heat index value of 106.3 at 5:35 p.m.
Heat advisories have been issued by the National Weather Service.
Derrick Eisentrout, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Morristown, said today that 60-70 mph sustained winds and gusts caused widespread damage.
“It was an organized thunderstorm where other areas received heavy rain and damaging winds,” Eisentrout said.
Only a small amount of rain was reported in Bradley County as the gust front caused trees to topple, roofs to give way, and powerlines to arc, triggering brush fires.
Bradley County Fire Rescue officials scurried to hundreds of calls for help. Polk County Fire Rescue also worked to clear downed trees and clean up roadways. Areas of Highway 30 were shut down. Cleveland Fire Department also responded to the weather event which rolled into the area around 7 p.m.
By 7:18 p.m., Cleveland Utilities crews were aiding 12,523 customers who were without power.
According to Ken Webb, senior vice president and chief financial officer, CU has approximately 30,000 electric customers.
“At midnight, crews had the repair numbers down to 3,031 and as of 8:30 this morning, less than 100 CU customers still had no power,” Webb said.
“Most of these will have their power restored by the end of the day but some might face delays because of work required by their electricians,” he said.
Six utility poles were broken during the wind storm.
“Most of the damage to the system was from downed trees and limbs. We appreciate everyone’s patience in working through these outages and we thank our crews for the fantastic job they did,” Webb said.
Robert McCarty of VEC said 2,440 customers were still without power this morning.
“At the peak, 14,000 people were without power in the 17 counties and 7,500 are still without power. Bradley County was the hardest hit and we expect all [customers to have] service by tonight,” McCarty said.
Robin Ramsey of the UT Extension office said a tree fell at the William Hale Agricultural Center on Peerless Road and pulled connections loose, shutting down the cannery until further notice.
Forecasters are calling for heat indexes in the 105 degree or greater range as the ambient air temperature will settle at 100-plus degrees in areas.
Pockets of hotter air can raise temperatures across the region. Last weeks’ high daytime temperature two days in a row shattered records at 109 degrees.
A slight cooldown was experienced earlier this week and a weather system moved into Bradley County on Independence Day to cool temperatures even more.
This weather pattern developed in the Western U.S. and continues to flow and expand eastward. Last week, humidity levels were low but with recent rainfall, humidity will aid in creating the higher heat index values.
Some thunderstorms could continue to develop over the next few days with some being severe, according to NWS.
In addition, The Salvation Army continues its “Beat the Heat” fan drive. Area churches and businesses along with individuals have provided box fans to the SA for distribution to residents who may need them.
According to Melissa Snyder of SA, the fans are available at the Salvation Army located at 437 Inman St., from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. For additional information, contact 308-3467.