Powerful storms cause floods and down trees
by Greg Kaylor  Banner Staff Writer and Rick Norton Associate Editor
Apr 29, 2014 | 1445 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
KEISHA BAKER submitted this lightning photo from a recent storm. Although it was not taken Monday evening, there was plenty of similar lightning brightening the skies throughout the night.
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Powerful storms that slowly intensified late Monday and throughout the night dumped heavy rains atop Cleveland and Bradley County, and interrupted many a night’s sleep with heavy lightning and booming thunder.

But the community was spared the horrific fate of three years ago when five marauding tornadoes ripped through the county’s core on April 27, 2011. Those storms took nine lives, destroyed 285 homes and badly damaged hundreds of others.

Monday’s outbreak brought damaging wind gusts that tumbled limbs, and in a few cases entire trees, across power lines and even a few houses. Such incidents, which mostly occurred just prior to midnight and then again early this morning, left as many as 2,249 Cleveland Utilities customers in the dark for an hour or less, according to Bart Borden, vice president of CU’s Electric Division.

In some cases, the Cleveland-Bradley County Emergency Management Agency received reports of felled trees damaging houses, but EMA Director Troy Spence said this morning information is still being assembled on isolated events involving structural damage.

Watches came from the National Weather Service first, followed by warnings of the thunderstorms, which had the potential of embedded tornadoes.

But in the words of Borden, “We were pretty lucky. We dodged some bad stuff.”

As of midmorning, Cleveland Utilities still had 167 customers without power; however, Borden said most, if not all, of these should have had their power restored sometime during the remaining morning hours.

In coordinating CU’s repairs to broken lines Monday night and early this morning, Borden couldn’t help but reflect on the historic events of three years ago. Those five twisters mauled one-fourth of the local utility company’s power grid.

As utility crews rushed to restore power to customers early today, Borden’s thoughts were already on tonight’s forecasts of another round of storms.

“We’re keeping our fingers crossed and we’re praying about tonight,” Borden told the Cleveland Daily Banner. “We’re already making all the preparations that we need to make to be ready for whatever happens tonight.”

According to the NWS, strong to severe thunderstorms are possible later this afternoon and overnight as temperatures climb to 80 degrees or higher. The possibility of damaging winds and large hail will also be possible as the system continues to develop.

“There is still some uncertainty with how much the atmosphere will destabilize today, which will have a significant impact on how large and widespread the severe weather potential will be,” NWS meteorologists reported early today.

Borden said the number of trees, and broken limbs, that snapped CU power lines made him wonder if snowstorms from last winter had weakened some of the trees and left them susceptible to the heavy rains and gusting winds of spring turbulence.

“That’s what we’re suspecting,” he said.

Borden put a timeline to some of the power outages.

In one case, the Blythewood Road area went dark at about 11:41 p.m. from broken power lines. Emergency CU crews restored customers’ power, but at 4:53 a.m. Tuesday another storm cell hit the same area.

“Those customers experienced two outages ... most of them the same people,” Borden said. “Some 561 customers had their power interrupted twice.”

Also at 11:41 p.m., a portion of North Ocoee Street — including Bowman Hills and the Bowman Forest area, Wood Chase, Weeks Drive, Windsor Hills and a portion of Blythe Ferry Road — was hit and 1,288 customers lost power.

At 5:59 a.m., 429 CU customers on Bates Pike east of Durkee Road, lost power.

At 6:26 a.m., 995 customers had a service interruption in the Rollingbrook area that included Michigan Avenue Road, 31st Street, Peach Orchard Hill Road, Magnolia Lea, Foxfire and Millcreek, Borden reported.

According to Bradley County 911 officials, Monday night’s storms caused minor flooding along many Bradley County roadways. Highway 64 was one of the roads most affected. Early morning reports also indicated that sections of Spring Place Road were engulfed in water and ditches were overwhelmed, forcing many motorists to pick and choose their routes to work.

Weather stations across the county recorded different amounts of precipitation. In the city, .98 inches of rainfall were reported while in the Chestuee community, 2.81 inches fell.

“We will continue to monitor the weather situation that could develop later this afternoon,” Spence said. “On Monday, city and county schools cancelled after-school activities and alerts were sent out from our office to those who had the NIXLE alert systems installed on cellphones and email.”

The Cleveland City Schools system on Monday night implemented a two-hour delay for this morning, based on the severe weather forecast.

The NWS will hold a telephone conference at 2 p.m. today to provide an update on this evening’s probabilities.

Spence continued to urge area residents to take advantage of the NIXLE alert system by going to www.bradleyco.net and clicking on the EMA link, which will provide safety information as well as NIXLE access information.

“We also ask residents to continue to monitor media sources and social media,” he said.